Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: I will go

   When our denomination’s new hymnal came out in 1989 (30 years ago now!), resistance to the incorporation of new hymns faded when we realized how marvelous some of them were. Natalie Sleeth’s “Hymn of Promise,” Michael Card’s “El Shaddai,” and others like John Wimber’s “Spirit Song” became instant favorites. My immediate nod for a new fave went to “Here I am, Lord,” written just 8 years earlier by 31-year old Dan Schutte (that’s him in the photo) for a friend’s ordination.

Worship isn’t a thing we do with God, and then we’re done, with mission being an optional add-on. I have a pastor friend who ends each service by saying “The worship has ended, now the service begins.” If we get worship, if we get being in God’s presence (like Isaiah did, when he heard them singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”), then we go, we live out God’s presence with and for others. And with considerable passion and energy.

“Here I am” begins by inviting us to sing God’s words and mood! God hears the people’s cries and asks “Who will bear my light to them?” and “Whom shall I send?” (echoing Isaiah 6 from last week!). The rousing reply we’re drawn into making? “Here I am, Lord… I have heard you calling in the night; I will go Lord… I will hold your people in my heart.”

Don’t sing this unless you’re seriously ready for your routine life, your accustomed ways to be interrupted. We hear the cries God hears; we hold God’s people in our hearts – reminding me of Bob Pierce (World Vision’s founder) praying “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” How counter-cultural! If we come up pain, we avert our gaze, or we blame, or get scared. Isaiah and our hymn suggest we embrace it, and go, being God’s light to others.

The words are lavish and suggestive. For the “poor and lame” there is to be a “feast” with “finest bread,” not a cheap handout, but something really good, the kind of thing we treat ourselves to. The hymn acknowledges how we develop “hearts of stone.” But God will break that stone and fill us with “love alone.”

The prophecies in the Isaiah scroll pick up on this image one more time – late, in chapter 65. God shifts the image: instead of God seeking us, God wishes to be sought. “I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said ‘Here I am, here I am.’ I held out my hands all day long to people who did not call on my name.” Fascinating. Knowing God yearns for us to say and sing “Here I am Lord,” if we listen closely we might hear God’s plaintive plea to us: “Here I am, here I am.” Will we seek the Lord, and let our hearts of stone be softened, and then go, to spread a feast for the poor and lame, to be God’s light in the darkness?

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