My first day at Worship Symposium started out with a seminar on lament by Michael Card and Calvin Seerveld. I don't know if it was my lack of coffee or what, but it was a little hard to follow. But from what I caught, I appreciated their insights. Calvin spent quite some time talking about the laments of vulnerable people; women who are raped and children who are abused. Sickness and disease is one thing, but the gross misuse of power just strips people of their humanity. Yup, something to lament all right. I think that they took the right tack by not trying to develop theodicies or justify why these things happen. They simply emphasized the fact that God became one of us and shared our pain and suffering. We need God to show up, and he came to us in the Incarnation, and he's coming again.
Next was the plenary by Dallas Willard. I had never heard of the guy, but apparently he's the biggest name here. He talked about weaving worship into the fabric of our lives. I was really tickled right off the bat because he emphasized the fact that we worship a triune God. I spent way too many years simply paying lip service to the Holy Trinity, but it's one of the richest doctrines in Christianity and it has huge implications for our understanding and worship of God. (For a superb treatment of this topic, see Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace by T.F. Torrence.) Part of his talk was about "praying without ceasing" and orienting ourselves to the worship of God in our everyday lives. He talked about one guy who wrote a book about trying to center himself on God minute-by-minute. I just got done reading a book about monastics on Mount Athos, so it immediately struck me that this was a very old idea. Many of the monks pray the Jesus Prayer constantly..."Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." They pray it hundreds of times a day, until it is internalized and their hearts "pray by themselves"(don't ask me how that works). We evangelicals are just beginning to get on board with some very ancient ideas.
I went to the Vespers service that was the piano and organ concert. It was one of the loveliest half-hours in recent memory. Maybe I'm just partial to the piano after playing it for so long. The combination of the two was so powerful. Hopefully I can go to their full-length concert.
I caught up with Joyce, who has been away in England, and I got to meet my blogosphere buddies Bob and Bethany in living color. I also got to eat dinner with three other people from the church I went to as a child, including my former pastor. I moved when I was ten and pretty much started all over again, so it was weird running into non-family members who know all my history. My pastor buried my dad and baptized me and my siblings, so those ties aren't easily forgotten. It is really fun to run into people after so long and compare notes. It'll be fun in Heaven when we can see our old friends, share our stories, and see how our lives affected each other.
The worship service in the FAC featured guests from China and Africa singing in their own languages. I couldn't help but get a little misty when we were singing "O, for a Thousand Tounges to Sing" in like five different languages. Maybe it was because I spent the majority of the day lamenting. That day when we all bow before God together can't come soon enough, but those eschatological snapshots we get every now and then pack a punch full of grace.