Recessional Confessional: The Morning Hillsong Got it Right

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Guide My Feet, While I’m on this race. (Yes, my Lord)

Guide My Feet, While I’m on this race.

Guide My Feet, while I’m on this race. (Yes, my Lord)

For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

 “Guide My Feet” is a hymn that’s been humming through my life over the past year. I’ve sang it on spiritual retreats, surrounded around a friend that’s been in-and-out of hospital rooms for various diagnosis, and community organizing gatherings as we’ve rallied for justice for the state of Illinois, during services with the congregation at Urban Village Church, and a host of other appropriate locations for various reasons.

It’s not just a hymn, though. This hymn has been sort-of a tool strapped to my utility belt, bound to my side as I go about this journey of faith — like an ancient warrior would carry a sword, a tailor would have on him/her measuring tape, or a used car salesman has the tune of that lowest possible number he can negotiate that Honda down for the intrigued but frugal customer.

These people know their tools. They know them without looking at them. When called into action the tool is so visible and functional to who the person is that no one even questions their ability to use it or accomplish a desired outcome. This hymn has brought me into deep interaction with God and has been the lens through which I’ve seen God in the voices I’ve sung this song behind, in-front of, side by side, clasped hand-to-hand with, and crowded together in holy response.

This hymn was my tool.

Sunday, after a tiring week of festivities for the wedding of my dear friends, I got up and drove our rented Mini-Van up Centenary Blvd., around the graveyard, past the frozen daiquiri shack, and up Texas St. to First United Methodist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana to FAITHLink (FUMC’s energetic contemporary worship service) where I had spent over four years during my undergraduate career helping to lead music. Nostalgia on overload, I heard the similar sounds and smelled the similar smells of Southern Maid donuts and styrofoam cups of coffee that had so long engulfed my nostrils every Sunday morning.

Sneaking in the back, I watched as the punctual details of the well-designed contemporary service flowed organically. The music, however, was a bit polarizing — like jumping in a shower too quick and jolting from the ice-cold water that tricked your senses. It had been three years since I’d been fully immersed in a worship service of this charismatic of quality. Had I become Salvation is Here soft? Had my Chris Tomlin tolerance fallen to far to the wayside? Had I become so uncomfortable with pop contemporary Christian worship that I was no longer able to worship? 

Following Mark’s sermon, Missy walked up to her seat at the synthesizer/piano and began singing the bridge of an unfamiliar tune.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters,

wherever you would call me.

 

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander

and my faith will be made stronger,

in the presence of my Savior.

I thought to myself, What an awesome hymn the band has re-purposed for a contemporary song. The lyrics (not to mention Missy’s incredible voice) swelled my heart as I started singing aloud as opposed to my silent introspection earlier in the service. Filled with hopeful theology, the words call us have to step out in faith of God; to reach to the margins of our societal realms. It’s a song rooted in biblical calling and asks of God to be a guide in telling our stories–which finds its foundation in Jesus’ story–to the ends of the earth. Could this be the lyrical musings of Charles Wesley? Fanny Cosby? Ira D. Sanky? Ruth Duck?

The final slide with credits read, “Oceans,” written by Hillsong. 

Hillsong? Say what? There’s no way! How could these Aussie worship mega-stars pump out lyrics to a song that was so theologically on-point, singable, and had such a rich text that I would almost automatically label it as a eighteenth-century hymn?

It was then I knew that I had tightened my contemporary Christian music sleeping mask so tight that I had let the genre of music override the Spirit’s movement in that delicate closing moment of the service. In fact, I had let it affect my whole mood and posture of prayer the entire morning.

Recessional Confessional: I left that morning convicted. Convicted less by any particular moment or message in the service, but by my inability to be open to the Spirit who moved her unconditional hands of grace through, yes, a poppy contemporary Christian song. 

So whether it’s Hillsong or Hildegard, Bell or Barth, Gungor or Gregory of Nysssa let us be aware of the Spirit that works in, with, and through us a tool for God’s glorification. The Spirit who knows us not just in a style of worship or type of instrument, but who knows as intimate beings of God’s unmatched love. The Spirit who knows us not just in a huge stage of thousands of charismatic worshippers or in the silence of solitary cell, but who knows us in the depths of our deepest oceans of shame as beloved children of possibility and potential. Hillsong got it right. Their song calls not on the power of their lyrics to get them through the mess of the journey of faith, but on the Spirit’s leading, discomfort, and ultimate faithfulness. May our tools to God not just be the lyrics we sing but in the actions God calls us to live out daily.

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