Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[l] Is anything worth more than your soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26
Back in Brandon, Florida, I played guitar with the Praise Band every week. Here in Wake Forest, the church has a wealth of talent, including enough accomplished guitarists to populate several bands. So I enjoy sitting on the front row with Rebekah, singing with the congregation, and doing the occasional anthem when asked.
So this week, along with my friends Dan, Tim, Brett, and Hans, I did a cover on an old Eagles tune, Love Will Keep Us Alive. I doctored the words just a little, singing “God’s love will keep us alive,” “Faith has given me the will to survive,” and, “Now I’ve found Jesus….”
Regardless of your position vis-a-vis secular music in a sacred setting, it’s a powerful message and was a lot of fun to do. You can find the song at the 38:30 timestamp on the WFPC Facebook LiveFeed.
Putting myself out there to sing in public is not a natural behavior for me. I always enjoy it once I’m in the middle of the song, but I have to be very intentional to make it happen. I suspect it’s like that with a lot of the gifts God has entrusted us to share. God leaves a lot of it up to us. We have to be willing to serve, and we have to bring some courage with us. “I will be with you,” God says, “and I will use you – but I need your will and your enthusiasm as equal partners in the equation.”
Pastor John preached a message about “The Sabbath.” One of the nuggets I walked away with turns out to be an important commentary on what happens in worship… and what doesn’t happen. He quoted from a poem where the writer confesses their own hesitancy in terms of commitment, “not enough [God] to disturb my soul or disrupt my sleep” (“Three Dollars Worth of God”, by Wilbur Rees)
The line that grabbed me most completely was this: “I want ecstasy, not transformation.”
I want ecstasy, not transformation…
I couldn’t help but think about how easy it is to shift from a worship mentality (where we are confronted by the Holy, challenged to serve, and literally changed by Jesus) to one of entertainment, or “give me good feeling today, God…” or, “It’s just me and God, it’s all about how God makes me feel…” or, “I want ecstasy, not transformation.”
But don’t we all? Isn’t this the constant challenge for us as followers of the Living Way of Jesus?
Companion to the idea that we ask for just “three dollars worth of God” is the truth that we are more comfortable only offering God two dollars worth of ourselves. But that’s not what the Gospel asks. Jesus doesn’t even limit his ask to ten percent – that’s an Old Testament model.
Jesus simply asks for everything. What he offers is transformation. Oh, yes, we will likely encounter ecstasy along the way. But that’s not the pull, that’s not the point. The point is that we are now Children of the Living God, and we are free, and we are forgiven… and we are responsible to do something – to do everything – with that gift.
In love, and because of love – DEREK