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Greenwood Forest Baptist Church

Do We Mean What We Sing?

On January 25, 2017, Sojourners magazine published an article online entitled, "American 'Christianity' Has Failed." Here is the opening paragraph of the piece:

For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people. This represents a predominant theme of Westernized Christendom: proclaiming Christian rhetoric while actively — or passively — practicing the opposite in reality.

When I read this, it hit me in the gut. Our band will be singing the song the author is quoting (Oceans) in worship this week. The last thing we want to do is sing a song in worship that should inform our response to people in need, and then walk out of worship and ignore them (or worse, act in ways that hurt them). So the question on the table this week is: do we mean what we sing?

When we sing "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders" on Sunday, will we allow that metaphor to deconstruct all the borders we erect in our lives to keep our neighbors at arms' length—physical, mental, religious, emotional, and otherwise? Will we resist any and all calls to recalcify borders that Christ has torn down (see Eph 2:14)? When we sing "your grace abounds in deepest waters" will we have compassion for the poor and marginalized of the world, fleeing violence and oppression over actual rising oceans and dangerous waves? Or will we refuse them aid, out of our own perceived self-interest and fear? 

A moving exhibit of photos and monologues on the refugee experience has been on display in our Narthex this month. On Sunday, after we sing "Oceans," the creator of the exhibit, Tacy Surrett, will deliver our children's parable. I pray that we will allow our singing and Tacy's words to open our hearts to compassionate care for our neighbors. I pray that we will truly hear the call of Jesus to follow him out upon the waters, into the great unknown, out of our comfort and safety, to care for the vulnerable. Perhaps, GFBC can counter the hard truths expressed in the Sojourners piece about the state of Christian formation in the American church. Perhaps we can truly mean what we sing, and allow our singing to transform us into better disciples of Jesus.