Wesley’s Directions for Singing

Yesterday, at our 8:15am service, I shared some of John Wesley’s Directions for Singing. I’ve always appreciated Wesley’s thoughts on congregational singing. He makes some strong points for active participation among all gathered together for corporate worship. Here they are (emphasis’ added by JBM):

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first. (I’m thinking Wesley was a punk-rocker!)

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

From John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761 (as printed in the United Methodist Hymnal).

On Giving

Last week at Annual Conference, the “hammer was dropped” on two of our larger churches who do not participate in the tithe system set up by our conference.

In the case of both churches, it is not a case where they simply don’t have the money to tithe and cover their expenses. It basically boils down to choice. They have made the choice not to give in the system our Annual Conference has set up. It’s not that these churches avoid giving…both do incredible things in their communities and in our world. These are thriving churches with amazing ministries and outreach. They have simply decided not to meet the expectations of giving set by our Annual Conference. And, I’m sure they have their reasons.

Bishop Coyner made comment that basically stated, “if you want to find reasons not to give, you can find them.” He went on to say something along the lines of “instead of finding reasons not to give, I’d like to focus more on faith and trust.”

It’s interesting… There are ways in which these churches could be disciplined,  if so desired. Some would says it’s because of their size that they have not been “forced” into meeting giving requirements. However, I think in the practice of grace, the desire is to simply remind them of our call…and to continually offer the opportunity to participate.

At the same time, it’s somewhat easy to talk about and focus on the 2 big churches who do not participate (or do not fully participate)…especially because it’s highly likely that they did not have any representatives in the room during that particular session. My guess is that if both churches tithed to the district, conference, and general conference, money would not be much of an issue. These are large churches with large budgets.

But, what about the other churches that do not fully participate in our system of giving? I know that some churches have to decide between paying the light bill or their tithe. But, isn’t that what faith and trust and obedience is all about?

If we are obedient and faithful in our giving, it is my belief that God will provide. Somehow those lights will stay on.

Afterall, isn’t this what we ask of our people on a weekly basis? The individual sitting in the congregation on a Sunday morning is confronted with a choice…”do I give to the church or something else…and how much do I give?” Choices! “Do I give a full tithe…or do I hold on to some in order to supersize my McDonald’s order after church?” At the same time, the question could be, “Do I cut back on my personal expenditures and give more than a tithe?” Choices…

The bottom line is that giving is a choice. Whether it’s the local church or an individual, we all make a choice on what, when, and how we give. In those two big churches, the pastors and leaders have made a decision not to participate in our conference’s system of giving. Other churches and individuals struggle with the same choice. I know that Christ UMC started 2010 off with a desire and commitment to pay our full tithe. It’s a matter of choice.

So, when it comes to giving…what choice will you make?

Holistic Health

I recently finished Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food. I started reading this book just days after watching Food, Inc. Simply reading the book or watching the film will really get you thinking about what you eat, how you eat, and even when you eat. This isn’t simply about health…it is a moral issue, an ethical issue. If they don’t change the way you eat, each will at least make you more mindful of the process of food.

While at Annual Conference,  I’ve been thinking about holistic health. As Bishop Schnase has been talking about the Five Practices of Fruitful Living, I keep thinking about the component that is missing…physical health. The five practices will lead us towards spiritual health and a vital faith life, but it sort of avoids the conversation about physical health.

He did talk about needing to let some things go in order to connect with God. Of course, in a room of Christian leaders, we tend to think about the big ones…”don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew…don’t go with girls who do.” But, some of those vice’s we’re clinging to are unhealthy eating habits and ignoring exercise. We get so busy “doing ministry” that we simply don’t have the time to take care of ourselves…and that, I believe, is dangerous.

Of course, this is somewhat difficult to talk about because I’m not exactly the picture of a holistically healthy person. But, I’m trying.

So, maybe the way we can practice radical hospitality and encourage risk-taking mission and service is to develop ministries that help people take care of themselves…spiritually, emotionally, and physically???

Questions

As I have strolled through this journey of faith, I’ve found that I end up with more questions than answers.

The more time I spend studying Scripture, Church history, theology, and the like, I find myself wrestling even more with issues rather than figuring them out.

I find myself doing more pondering than reaching solutions.

But, I have this feeling that maybe this is how it is supposed to be…

If I found acceptable answers for all of life’s questions, I just might stop the search. And, isn’t the search the point of faith? Maybe questions are actually healthy…and we’re entering dangerous territory when we stop questioning things.

It’s not that I never find answers to my questions…sometimes God helps make some things clear to me…it’s just that some issues lie in the gray area…and I continue to struggle with exactly what God would want me to say, do, or think on the subject at hand.

In the midst of seeking answers to questions, I find myself growing. I find my faith growing deeper when I wrestle and struggle with various issues. I find myself becoming more dependent on God. I find myself trusting more in the grace, love, mercy, and compassion of God. And, I find myself more and more able to accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, it’s not God’s intended plan for me to know everything.

And so, I continue to struggle through my questions. I continue to search for answers. I continue to seek out God…And I find comfort in knowing that God is with me in my questions.

While we’re on the subject of questions…I’m just going to throw it out there that we probably need to stop saying that we’ve “got a lot of questions for God when I get to heaven.” I think that’s a pretty bad view of the afterlife. I’m pretty sure when we encounter God’s awesome presence, the last thing on our mind is going to be our list of questions. I have a feeling that when we experience God in all of His glory, we aren’t really going to be concerned about why God allowed this or that to happen…I’m pretty sure we’ll be completely consumed in awe and our only response will be worship.