In worshiping at church, my mind is always scattered. I’m always looking around. I’m keeping an eye on the clock, I’m trying to see who’s there and who isn’t. I ask myself how others might react to the song we are presently singing and how might I work this into my message for that morning. While I’m preaching, I look out into the congregation and see the faces of so many people. I ask if they are understanding what I’m saying. Are they getting it? Is it making sense? And I try to adjust accordingly. Worship for me on Sundays are amazingly filled with awe, with wonder, and with scatter-brained-weirdness.
I have a saying “If I can think of it, so can they.” I started using this saying when working as a mall cop some years back. I was always a bit of a mischievous kid and did things I probably shouldn’t have. And so, while working as a mall cop, I would keep an eye on people and imagine what I would do in their shoes. Most the time my suspicions were right. Problems were averted and I was proactive in doing public safety as a mall cop. I still use this saying today, I sometimes paraphrase it as a healthy paranoia.
So what does this have to do with hallelujahs?
Hallelujah is worship. A literal translation of the word from Hebrew is “praise the LORD.” And when I use all capitals like that (and when you see it in most Bible translations) that means God’s personal real name is being used. So it is a personal, true, act of worship to the one true personal God. All that wrapped up in one word.
But why paranoid? Why paranoid hallelujahs? Why paranoid worship?
There are times where it is hard to worship. There are times where it is hard to try to make sense of the world around us. And in the midst of worship, in the midst of hearing the message given that morning, we sometimes get distracted by words and phrases. And it all depends on what you’re going through at that time.
In singing songs in church, there are times where the words just can’t come out of your mouth. I remember my grandmother’s funeral. It was asked that we sing Amazing Grace. I said I wanted it sung at the end of the service while the family walked out. Why? Because when we got to the line “When we’ve been there, ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun…” I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the rest of the song. Even now, I begin to tear up thinking about it. The words wouldn’t, couldn’t come out.
Another time in my life when things were going every which way but loose, I was in church and we began singing “Blessed be Your Name.” And then we came to the line “And blessed be Your name On the road marked with suffering Though there’s pain in the offering–Blessed be Your name.” Through tears I sang those words.
When we worship, there are paranoid hallelujahs. What are we thinking. What are we going through? What are we struggling with? What joys are there? What problems are there? And then we begin to wonder what else is going on.
I read this from Proverbs this morning
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10
There are times in worship, a time of being in front of God and searching for the power of the Holy Spirit to give us a heart of worship, that we forget the rest of the world and get lost in the song, get lost in the message. Yet do we ask if someone else is feeling the same way we are feeling?
Worship becomes individualized. Worship becomes just something between us and God. It is no longer something that we experience with others. We might be feeling crappy that morning yet don’t ask ourselves how the person standing next to us is feeling. How are they responding to this song? How are they responding to the message that is being preached that morning? Now, I’m not saying we should elbow them when a point is made in the message and say “You should listen to that point.” No. But we should make room for paranoid hallelujahs. We need to make room to wonder how others are experiencing worship that morning.
We’ve individualized our faith. We’ve individualized our worship experience. It’s become something that’s just for us even though we’re surrounded by so many people.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
We are to carry each other’s burdens during worship. We are to carry each other, bearing the load with one another so that no one is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders by themselves, and bring each other home. This is a healthy paranoid hallelujah.
So, as Sunday approaches, and if you go to church (which I highly suggest that you do if you don’t already), have paranoid hallelujahs. Be willing and wanting to carry each other’s burdens, and help bring each other home.