My Dad grew up catholic. His earliest memories of church growing up were getting dressed up in his Sunday best, sitting, kneeling, sitting some more and then kneeling again. My grandparents took their kids often enough for my Dad to grow up into a disciplined, admirable and honest young man.
Years later, he found himself experiencing a whole new kind of church. Faced with the task of winning the affections of a young lady he admired, he once again found himself standing in a church sanctuary. As this outing was considered a ‘first date’ of sorts there’s no doubt that he was dressed to impress and ready to sit, kneel and stand as attentively as years of church and his training in the Air Force had taught him too. I can almost picture the shock and sheer terror on his face as they found their place in the pew and service began with singing. Not only was there a choir singing but, the people were singing too. Everyone was singing. They weren’t waiting for the next instruction to kneel or sit. They were standing and lifting their voices together and singing of God’s goodness and faithfulness together as one body with one voice.
I can almost feel a lump in my throat as I imagine my Dad standing in that church surrounded by people singing, standing next to a woman he desperately wanted to impress and being tragically confronted by the reality echoing over and over again in his head ‘I can’t sing’. I can see a look of defeat sweep across his face as he stares into the hymnal, his eyes straining more note by note as he searched for a way to learn to sing right there in the moment.
I can tell you after standing next to my Dad and singing at church together for 14 years that he did not learn to sing in that moment of desperation. He didn’t learn to sing in the 14 years I stood by his side and sang in his ear either. Every time he sings ‘Happy Birthday’ the dogs still howl along as if he’s speaking their language. But, in spite of being scarred for life the first time he tried to sing in church, my Dad taught me how to worship.
As I grew up and starting singing in choirs and writing songs I was embarrassed by my Dad’s singing voice. I sarcastically joked about him ‘teaching me everything I know’ or ‘making a joyful noise’. I’ll never forget one day after being the butt of a few jokes from me and some of my friends in the youth group my Dad responded confidently, “good thing it’s not about me.”
My 16-year-old head exploded all over the purple floral upholstery and dcTalk posters in the youth room. “Good thing it’s not about me.” Years later that still rings true: we worship this morning because God is worthy not because we’re good at it or simply because we enjoy it for ourselves.
It’s overwhelming to think that I owe everything I know about worship to a small congregation in New Jersey that was faithful to sing the gospel over my Dad as he took his first steps following Jesus. For some in this room today may be their first opportunity to see the people of God boldly approach the throne of grace in worship. That fills me with hope because God’s presence changes everything. We’ll never know the depth of the impact our worship has this morning as we plant seeds in the hearts of those around us. I do know however, that within only a couple years of that worship experience, my Dad began a personal relationship with Jesus, married my mom and adopted me.
We’ll never know the depth of the impact our worship has this morning as we plant seeds in the hearts of those around us.
My prayer is that singing the gospel together will be a humble beginning compared to the rich lives of worship we live. This morning I challenge you to sing and worship with that in mind. As we sing together I implore you to daydream about the Kingdom. Imagine building it with your voice, your hands, and your feet because every time we sing together we have the opportunity to teach someone to worship.