Solid. According to an online dictionary, solid means, among other things, “being of a substantial character; not superficial, trifling, or frivolous; real or genuine; sober-minded; fully reliable or sensible.” Solid—it’s a good word; a solid word.
“Solid” is how I would describe yesterday’s worship. It was wonderful to be in the house of the Lord and worship with his people. There was nothing special about our worship. It was, well, solid. Our church’s staff organist was on vacation so two other members played, and soloists led the singing. Nothing glamorous, just solid.
Two retired pastors brought God’s Word. The sermons themselves were nothing out of the ordinary. The preachers were not especially charismatic, nor did they wow the congregation with their rhetoric and erudite delivery. But their message was one we needed to hear. These two scholars and pastors, each with years of experience, brought a simple yet profound message: today, more than ever, we need wisdom, and true wisdom comes from knowing Christ fully, not in an intellectual manner alone but with the heart. It was obvious that these servants of God were speaking from the heart, and through the working of the Holy Spirit my heart heard them. It was good to be in the house of the Lord.
As my mind wandered over yesterday’s services I recalled a recent conversation with a woman from Indonesia. My daughter and I were guests of Emily Brink (editor emeritus of RW), along with the Indonesian woman and a woman from Japan. As we sat around a campfire the conversation turned toward how difficult it is to be a Christian in Japan and Indonesia.
The woman from Indonesia recounted how Christians on an Indonesian island were woken up one night and dragged to a police station. With only the clothes on their back, young and old were shipped off to another island. These acts of injustice and persecution, she says, are common enough in Indonesia that no one is surprised when they happen. Events like these—and worse—occur in many countries around the world; yet we in the Western world hear little about it.
I can’t help wondering what persecuted Christians would think if they listened to conversations about worship between average North American Christians.
It is right for us to consider the impact of media in worship or the type of music we ought to sing. We need to spend time discussing the use of color and art because visuals influence our experience and understanding of worship. All of those conversations are good and even necessary—but they never eliminate the need for discussion and action related to social justice.
It is good for us to worship God using all our gifts of music, art, and dance. It is good that we have trained musicians, gifted writers, eloquent pastors, visual artists, and dancers. But the abundance of all these gifts must never outshine or overshadow the solid message of the cross.
Our mission at RW is to publish creative and meaningful resources that help churches in their worship of God, and we’re constantly amazed by the steady flow of wonderful ideas readers send our way. But everything you find between these covers is pointless without the solid underpinnings of a sure foundation on Christ and the recognition that we are a small part of a much larger body of believers.
Sometimes we need services full of simplicity and grace to remind ourselves that worship is primarily about the communication that occurs between God and God’s people, not about the means by which that conversation takes place. It’s the message, not the media, that takes first place.
That message sustains and unites all Christians. Around the world there are Christians who wonder if they will live to see another day; Christians for whom claiming allegiance to Christ is a death sentence. Hearing those stories, meeting those who have lived through persecution, reminds me of the solid message of the cross. That message stands on its own—even when there’s no music, no banners, no drama, no dance, as wonderful as those gifts can be.
So this year when an ash cross is smeared on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, let’s remember that for some, including Christ himself, that cross is real. Let’s divest ourselves of everything that gets in the way as we walk through Lent by simply focusing on Christ, the solid rock. And as we plan for Easter celebrations, let’s make sure they are about the resurrection, not about programs. And in all seasons, let’s continue to hold up in prayer those who are persecuted and together work toward a world filled with shalom.