Because that blood in the tank, the blood nourishing the church, didn’t really come from the worship leaders; it doesn’t come from the Pastor, the elders or the deacons. We are only ever graced to be conduits.
I had a dream around 2am on a Friday morning. In the dream, I was trying to get everything set for our Sunday worship. The dream seemed to place me in that hour right before worship started. There was a sense of quiet, dignified urgency. But no one was rehearsing songs or doing sound checks. We were all hooked up to tubes wrapped around IV poles which our sound guys had rigged so that our blood was being pooled into a large fish tank in which creatures swam devouring our red blood cells like in some surreal illustration from a biology textbook.
But I was deficient somehow. I kept running out of blood to donate. I would get dizzy and have to leave the tank to find someone to fill me back up with blood. In this dream I hooked myself up to get a blood transfusion like I would hook my car up to fill it with gas. And it seemed to me as I watched my blood empty into the tank that it had a dark, oily quality to it.
The dream was so vivid, scraps of it have stayed with me longer than most dreams. That my unconscious reached for blood imagery when engaging with my anxieties about Sunday worship, tells me that my imagination has been formed by the liturgies of the church. Blood shared, sacrificed, given in community: a communion of worship leaders feeding the church. How grotesque! How beautiful! How bizarre! Just like our faith. This gives me an inordinate sense of satisfaction, like being able to dream in a second language. I have dreamt in the visual language of the church.
However, I'm less satisfied by the part I played in this dream. The strongest emotion that the dream imparted was the shame of depletion: I could not give as well as I perceived everyone else around me giving, and what I gave was tainted. The dream imparted a physical sense of draining: I felt the relentless tug of blood pouring out and found myself apologizing to a faceless figure who I knew looked askance at my lack of stamina.
The strange thing is, I don’t feel in my day-to-day life like I’m letting anyone down. I’m charging ahead: selecting songs, writing prayers, crafting litanies, organizing schedules, showing up, and getting it done. But the dream left me with a sense of foreboding; perhaps if I’m wise I’ll take it as a warning. If I trust too long in my competence, delight in my own wisdom, lean on my own understanding, I will end up dizzy and drained. If what I’m giving to the church comes only from me, they are getting something tainted and oily.
Because that blood in the tank, the blood nourishing the church, didn’t really come from the worship leaders; it doesn’t come from the Pastor, the elders or the deacons. We are only ever graced to be conduits. What we offer to the church must come from God if it is to be a life giving, living sacrifice. We don’t stand before the church and say, “this is my blood.” We stand with the church and hear said to us, “this is my blood shed for you…the gifts of God for the people of God.”