…whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men…
Colossians 3:23 (ERV)
It’s early on Easter morning, but we’ve already been awake for hours due to the sunrise service. We gather with our instruments – trumpets, saxophones, flutes, clarinets – in the balcony of the sanctuary. The sun streams through the stained glass windows, casting reds and yellows and greens across the hard wooden pews. We weave our way through the maze of metal folding chairs and spindly silver music stands holding our purple mimeographed sheet music. We haven’t had enough rehearsals for these services, but it is the same collection of hymns that we’ve sung every year for my whole life. Christ the Lord is risen today, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-lay-ay-l00-oo-yah.
The skill level is varied. Some who have just started playing their instrument, some who used to play regularly but now only dust off their horn for special services like today, some who play every week. But we all assemble, excited to add a different element to the songs usually accompanied only by the organ or maybe a piano.
I wet the reed for my saxophone and look intently as the director raises her arms, waves them in the air while she mouths “one, two, three, four,” and we begin.
Young and old alike, we are here to worship.
Sunday morning in Lakewood. We show up at the run-down elementary school to start converting the gym into a place where we can hold our service. One group wheels out the stacks of chairs, while the worship team begins setting up the sound board, speakers, and instruments. Running cables from the stage to the mid-court line. Some kids play basketball in the back half of the gym while we set up. We smell sweat mixed with the faint odor of hot dogs from Friday’s lunch.
The quality of the equipment isn’t very good. The piano that I’m playing is more like a toy than a serious instrument. We’re singing songs that aren’t as old as the hymns that I grew up with, but aren’t as cutting edge as some of the music the larger churches can do. But everyone in this small church plant is brimming with enthusiasm.
We may not have as many members as some of the other local churches and our talent pool may be lacking because of that, but those of us who have shown up are here to worship.
Christmas eve. No toys or out of tune pianos, but instead a gorgeous concert grand piano stretches out in front of me, with a stack of state-of-the-art keyboards behind me. The fog roils low on the floor, spilling off the front of the stage, making it look like we’re all playing on a cloud. The Avioms allow us to hear one another through our headphones, while keeping the stage clear of bulky monitors. The electric guitars, equipped with their wireless packs, come out to the front of the stage so we can see them shred up the Trans-Siberian Orchestra piece that we’re performing.
I press the keys forcefully, allowing the bass notes to resonate through the 2000 seat auditorium. We have rehearsed the service for a month, preparing for the opportunity to draw the congregation in with a familiar piece before sharing the message of an infant who was born as a gift of love for the whole world. There is an expectation of excellence that is present in the team members.
Some may see it only as a show, but for those of us participating, it is our gift to the Newborn King.
We are here to worship.