Sunday, September 24, 2006
First time in church in, uh, five years
I darkened the doorway and entered. Church in question: the Vineyard.
Jacob (14) wanted to go to the high school group with friends. We are Vineyardites by history and it's where most of our homeschooled homies go. So we committed to taking him.
Jon took Jake last week and this week it was my turn.
I didn't actually attend the church service, but sat in the swanky atrium where hungry believers feed on cafeteria food, get free coffee from the coffee bar or check up on email on their four wired computers in "Connections Cafe." The church is set on an expansive grounds with a big pond complete with reeds and a fountain. It has taken the full seven years since they built the church for the grass to take hold and really grow in. Looks nice.
I settled myself in a chair and pulled out my reading for grad school. While I sat there, the worship leader's songs were played on monitors all over the room (words superimposed over the band). I knew all but two songs and was startled to remember that I knew the song writers (in person - used to work for Vineyard Music). "Amazing love, how can it be?" Couldn't help but sing along.
And that's why hymns are still sung today. Back when hymns were the freshest thing since tongues of fire over the tops of the apostles' heads, hymns were "real" worship. Some people still believe that, amazingly.
And so shall be the three chord worship song whose lyrics must include "amazing" and "forgiven" in at least two of the stanzas and the chorus if at all possible, amen and amen. Generations to come will be trained to believe that these songs are true worship whether or not the songs even remotely resemble the times in which future believers live. That is also amazing... and if you're keeping track, I've managed to squeeze that magic word in three times already.
It didn't really matter that the lead singer couldn't sing or that the band sounded three legged. I felt this gentle rush inside that reminded me of the thousands of hours I swayed with arms lifted to those very melodies. I save the swaying and lifted arms for U2 concerts now (incidentally - U2 and Green Day on Monday Night Football at the Superdome 9/25).
The songs ended and the Bengals-jerseyed dude who does announcements bopped up to the stage. Obligatory jokes made as well as a reference to the promise that we'd all be home in time for the truly sacred event: Bengals v. Steelers, 1 p.m.
Then the pastor gave a sermon to a congregation which may have gone unheard as visions of TJ Houshmandzadeh danced in their heads.
And that's when I tuned into my book. I can't wait to write about what I read: Sandel on the reason the ambitious project of liberalism has failed in America, and why we don't want to let it go either.
While I read, the sermon went in and out of my consciousness. At one point, I closed my eyes, bowed my head and paused. It was a kind of prayer - the kind where habit took over and peace filled me and I felt benevolence toward my past, toward all those millions of moments where I checked in with God, with myself, with the transcendent. I smiled.
I had only wanted to be good. That's what everyone in that building wanted.
And what's wrong with that really?
P.S. Damn the Bengals had me scared. But hey! They did it, as did Notre Dame. Heart stoppers. My dad and I have had two good phone calls as a result.
And let's pretend the Ryder Cup never happened, deal?