A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen humming a familiar tune I hadn’t heard in a long time. Ever had that happen? And suddenly I burst into song, remembering words that had been tucked away for years.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flooooow, Praise him all creatures here belooooow, Praise Him above ye heavenly hooooost, Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghooooost. Aaaaaaaaaaaaamen.”
The song ushered in an unexpected moment of worship. My son interrupted his playtime to wander into the kitchen and ask, “Mommy, what was that?”
“It’s called The Doxology,” I said, laying my dish rag on the counter. “Mommy’s grandfather, Grandpa Smith, was a preacher. And when we would visit him, we could go to his church. We would walk there from his house. And they always sang that song.”
Memories came back. Good memories of the short walk on mild Summer mornings to the beautiful stone church with the stained glass windows and dark wooden pews. Memories of my grandfather, tall and sturdy and handsome, preaching his sermon from the pulpit. That feeling of excitement and pride that he belonged to me. And finally memories of that lovely song and the voices of the congregation blooming into rich harmonies.
“Can you sing it again?” My son asked me in the kitchen, now perched on the counter.
And so The Doxology became one of his favorites. We sing it before bed and sometimes before dinner. He loves the long A-men at the end, which he has since added to the end of every song, including those he crafted himself. The other day, I heard him composing a spontaneous ditty about Spider-Man getting the “bad guys,” which he ended with a high and holy “Aaaaaaamen.” It made me chuckle.
It also made me think, sadly, how so many churches are forgoing hymns and prayers in favor of more modern worship music. My husband and I mourn this together, like two old souls born in the wrong era perhaps, as we remember the deep theological lines of various hymns we learned in our youth, mostly from repetition week after week. These songs offered a rich heritage and a special connection with our older, faith-filled relatives.
I yearn for the best of both worlds, the old and the new. But it seems so many churches pick one or the other. And people offer arguments from both sides about, not just their preferred method of worship, but also their preferred methods of preaching or fellowship or attire, etc. as the best ways to encounter God and introduce Him to others. Or just the best way to have church and attract members. I’m not sure if those goals are always perfectly aligned with one another.
What I found so ironic about my son’s accidental discovery and love of The Doxology–it goes against the argument that young people are turned off by liturgy and dated hymns with complicated lines. I guess my son doesn’t know this yet. He only knows he heard a song that perked his interest and his heart. What’s more, he took this liturgical-style song and threw it into every aspect of his life, right down to his love of Spider-Man. He doesn’t have an inner voice telling him that those two things can’t possibly go together. He hasn’t constructed cultural rules around his spiritual life or decided there are only certain places and ways to find God.
Maybe his openness is one of the many reasons Jesus said we must be like little children to inherit the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3)
We all start this way. As children. Arms wide, unashamed of our nakedness, finding wonderment in everything…then we grow up and become “sensible” believers. Maybe, we decide worship and holiness belong in cathedrals or nice church buildings with updated carpet or in Christian bookstores. We compartmentalize and attach importance to certain styles and songs and words and places and preachers. When, in fact, God’s people ARE the church, which means we can encounter Him anywhere. That is what Jesus did for us. He said, no longer do you need to enter the temple to find God. Now, He dwells IN YOU, the ordinary person. What a life-changing concept!
That doesn’t mean we don’t go to church or value our worship there. It simply means, prayers in the shower are as spiritual as prayers at the altar. And the work of my hands at the kitchen sink, done in an attitude of worship, is as precious to God as upraised hands on Sunday morning. (That’s a relief, because I spend most of my time in the kitchen these days.) It means someone in a hospital bed can worship God freely while attached to heart monitors and IVs. And the man or woman in prison or in poverty or in a hut or homeless–can find God there, too!!! Hallelujah!
The Doxology reminded me of my childhood. Of my faith-filled heritage. And it begged to be passed down. It was God’s reminder to me, “I am in everything. I am with you always. And I want to hear your praises ring from the church and from the kitchen. You will find me in unexpected places and at unexpected moments. You will find me when you think all is lost. I will use unusual methods to carry out My work. I was there, and I am here with you now. In the cathedral or at the kitchen sink, My Beloved, I will meet you there.”
Today, God used a new Chris Tomlin song on the radio to remind me of His love. Other times, I’ve heard Him in my son’s laughter or found Him under a beautiful canopy of stars, the first cathedral ever constructed. I pray God makes my heart open, like a child’s, to receiving from Him wherever and however He chooses to reveal Himself.
So, in closing, as my sweet son would sing now, I offer a loud and gutsy: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-men.
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