What I'm Reading Today: Genesis 1-5
As I've developed in my role as worship leader over the years, I've grown in commitment to an emergent value that sometimes gets me in trouble. Before I share what that emergent value is, let me take a moment and explain the traditional approach so it will be a bit more clear why that emergent value can get me in trouble.
For many years in our mainline churches, a high premium was placed on "excellence" in worship. By this, I mean it was expected that each and every element of the service was supposed to be well-rehearsed and go off like clockwork. It didn't matter what element of worship we are talking about – it could be the children's sermon, the choral anthem, or the banners hanging on the wall – everything was supposed to be excellent by purely objective standards.
Over the past 10 years, however, the assumption has been called into question.
"Why would anyone question that?" some might wonder. "Shouldn't we always aspire to give God our best in our worship service/service of celebration?"
The second of those questions get at the heart of the controversy.
You see there is a COLLOSAL difference between establishing a goal of giving God THE best and giving God MY best. If a faith community pursues THE best, this means that lots of people (and their gifts) are left by the wayside because they aren't considered "good enough". Some people aren't asked to speak during worship, for instance, because they sometimes stutter or use fillers when they get nervous. Other people aren't asked to join a song leading team or choir because their voices aren't good enough. Or some aren't asked to help make banners because some of the limitations in their creative abilities might cause visual discordance in the final product.
In other words, lots and lots of folks who are dying to contribute THEIR best to the worship/celebration experience are completely left out because THEIR best doesn't equal THE best. One of my foundational values in approaching worship is to help create a spiritual community that is healthy enough to receive each and every offering that is given.
So what does this have to do with today's reading?
Well, I was reminded of my vision as I read about the story of Abel and Cain in today's passage. Lots of folks assume that Cain got in trouble with God because he didn't offer God THE best. I'm not sure that's the case. Abel, for instance, was praised for giving "choice cuts of meat". In my book, that means he was praised for giving HIS best – the best of what he had available. Cain, on the other hand, got off track not because he didn't give THE best – Cain got off track because he wasn't even willing to give HIS best.
The story of Abel and Cain invites us to think about the way we approach our lives. What is the goal that drives you? Are you driven by the pursuit of excellence in the abstract; or are you driven by the goal of giving YOUR best? Understanding the difference between those approaches can strongly impact the way you lead your life (and the effect you have one others!).
Til next time …