We give our alleluias to the church’s common chord: Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise, O Praise, O Praise the Lord!
Shifting the pronouns in a conversation, message, or song from single to plural can make the world of difference in how it is received. Making the simple change from I to we in a sentence or from me to us and mine to our makes conversation communal and inclusive rather than solitary or seemingly narcissistic.
Have you ever listened to the comments of a friend in which all the personal pronouns were I, me, and mine, especially when the subject of the conversation was not about him? When a young teen, there was a fellow in our church who made an impression on me. Each Sunday he would give his testimony about his life. The problem was that it was always about his life and not a word spoken about Jesus. It sounded something like this “I did this and I thought that; this was God blessing me; it was my experience that . . .” One Sunday when the opportunity for people in the congregation to give a testimony of thanks and praise for God’s grace in their lives, this fellow once again started in with “I did this” and “I did that; I, I, I.” All of a sudden a quiet old soul in the congregation stood-up and said loudly in a Scottish brogue, “ LORRD KNOCK HIS EYE OUT!” The response of all those present was an uproar of laughter by everyone, and the collective wish that someone had said something like that earlier.
A problem in our worship today is that it is too much an individual exercise. It’s all about “me, about the music and preaching I like, and about what the worship, sermon, and experience does for me. We are the victims of our preoccupation with our selves. We’ve been socialized by a Western culture of individualism. Worship as a self-serving experience is captured in so many of the songs we sing and the prayers we raise in the act of worship. Even the experience of holiness is personal and often private pursuit for self-fulfillment. It is so often built around I rather than we, and me and mine rather than us and ours. Instead of the focus on me, myself, and I, true worship focuses on the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in thanks and praise. Do we not too easily forget that when Jesus was asked how we might pray, he demonstrated by saying, “Our Father . . . Hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, forgive us, lead us, deliver us, for yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory?”
Worship is not merely an individual sport nor for one’s personal glory! It’s about the Other, all to glory to God the Other; not to the glory of the worship band, nor the lights and staging, nor the worship leader or preacher, nor about the great coffee in the foyer. Along the way, when worship is deeper and hearts are transformed by the Holy Spirit in likeness to God’s own heart, we will hear the pronouns change.
We need each other’s voice to sing The song our hearts would raise To set the whole world echoing With on great hymn of praise. We blend our voices to complete The melody that starts With God, who sets and keeps the beat, That stirs our loving hearts