Family, Vuvuzelas and Church
There is a saying that recites something like ‘family meets up only at weddings and funerals.’ Now, I don’t know whether this is totally true, but it got me thinking. Of course, these two kinds of events represent the apotheosis of life. The first one, marriage, is the representation of the birth of a new family, the sealing of a promise. For those who are cheesy, romantic and emotions led (a little bit like me), it represents the climax of love between two people, who decide to share a lifetime together, ‘Till death do us part’. It’s the famous saying that pronounces the birth of a new family.
Before I flip the coin on the side of death, let me say something. I wish that the same celebration would take place when a newborn baby comes into the world, but, sadly, that’s not always the case. Thankfully there are always exceptions, which make me hopeful for a world that celebrates life in unity.
On the other hand, we have death. Funerals are the events that bring the family together in sorrow. The burden of mourning is shared among the people, especially when the root, from which the family tree branches out its structure, passes away. As an Italian, I cannot but think about grandparents, parents and all those branches of the tree that have pivotal roles in keeping the family united. When you think about people who are no longer with you, your eyes suddenly are filled with tears and you can’t help remembering moments spent with them.
Following this line of thought, I was thinking, what is it that brings the world together under the same umbrella?
The World Cup is one of those for sure. Now, setting aside all the thoughts regarding the present one taking place in Qatar, this football event is able to take people from all the corners of the earth to the same place. For some that would be physically speaking and for others, it would just be symbolically. Even football fans from nations which are not taking part in the competition watch and discuss with interest the games of the tournament. It is said that football has the ability of connecting people from all over the world in a way that no other sport is able to do. Many would see the magic of football being in the fact that it doesn’t require big things to happen. Whenever you kick a can in the streets, or a stone, or anything that can replace a football, that is the magic football happening. Every football fan on the final game of the World Cup would be there watching it, either to enjoy the spectacle of good football, or with a critical eye commenting on what mistakes could have been avoided. Whether they are at home, at work or in a pub, all the eyes will be on the World Cup Final. Will you be one of them?
Thinking about commonalities that bring us together under the same umbrella, I find it fascinating that, as Christians, we still carry on traditions and habits that break through time and space. Of course, I am not talking about doctrines or dogmas. I am speaking about practicalities.
Let me say one thing first.
Hebrews 10:24–25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Interestingly enough, 1900 odd years ago, the author of this letter encouraged the Christian community to take part in church life. Meeting together, though it may seem obvious, is not to be taken for granted as we know that it can be taken away. There is something special happening when many souls come into one place with the same aim. Think, for example, at the stadium during a football game. Fans sing songs, support, shout and they are called the twelfth player on the pitch because they can create both a powerful atmosphere for the team they support, and discourage the opposite teams. To stay with the World Cup theme, do you remember the vuvuzelas during the South African World Cup in 2010? That was an example of how to come together with other people, but without being coordinated. Coordinated fans are those who sing together, at the same time, following a rhythm; there is some sort of musical fashion in there. Singing at the stadium is like joining a choir!
The singing is in fact one of the other commonalities that breaks through space and time and brings us together as Christians. Just a little parenthesis; sometimes I wish I could see churches singing with the same passion that can be seen at the stadiums. The passion means you don’t think about what a good or bad singer you are. You just fill your lungs with air and love for what you are shouting for and you let it out. Can you imagine Churches singing with that passion? Thinking a bit less about the performance and focusing much more on what we actually sing. Whether they are classic hymns or fresh worship songs, whatever we sing as a congregation, could you imagine if it was sung with that passion?
I like to think that Psalm 150, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”, recalls the same idea of worship. I am not saying to become like Sunday Vuvuzelas, but to not sing just because it is customary. Rather, to worship because it is our way of drawing us closer to God, knowing him more, feeling part of his family. And yes, I reckon that if you are an unappreciated off-tune singer like me, to have someone who leads worship, it’s better. I think that worship does matter. To be a good singer in order to worship it’s not important. In our sermon series Who do you think you are? we saw that God looks at the heart. So why not fill our hearts with passion when we come together to worship? Why are we so worried about what our singing sounds like in a context that is years light far away from talent shows?
It is not a case that one of the last scenes in the Bible is a picture of a multi-ethnic congregation joining in one choir. This is a shout for you to go and look at the book of revelation, not trying to give an explanation to it, but to enjoy it with all its images. That book is a literature artwork, I don’t think I fall short if I can compare the author of the last book of the Bible to JRR Tolkien, or CS Lewis. Revelation 7:9 speaks of people coming together, joining in one choir. There is the image of a wedding taking place at 21:9–10. Nonetheless, it also speaks of stories of bloodshed and images of wars but nevertheless, there is the most hopeful verse, one of my favourite verses.
Revelation 21:3–5 says,
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
I started this blog by saying that there are different reasons why people come together, beginning with family, then extending to the world and then as Christians. My aim with this article is to make you think about what draws you closer to other people? What draws you close to church? What is it that draws you closer to God?