Friday, January 29, 2016

Late-Night Worship

My Christian university holds a student-run, student-led worship service every Wednesday night. We call this weekly service Family, and it's a great opportunity to kick back for an hour to worship and hear a fellow student preach. Each week has different students playing the music and preaching, so it's always unique.

But one night each semester, the Family planning committee puts together a special extended service, called Late-Night Worship. This usually involves a couple hours of worship, broken up by 2-3 speakers, often including a respected professor or staff member, and often there are different worship experiences such as communion or prayer stations. Late Night Worship is one of my favorite experiences each semester. So it was very exciting to me last fall when the planning committee contacted me and several other artists on campus, asking if we'd make art as part of the worship service. 

Wednesday night rolled around. I had to work that afternoon, so I was pretty tired when 8:00 rolled around and the service started. Honestly, I wasn't feeling very worshipful. The two other artists, Nick and Codie, and I arranged our supplies in three spaces at the front of the chapel. Since I preferred to work sitting down, I actually had been given a space onstage, right next to the drummer on the far left of the stage.

I got out my stuff, thinking this would be a pretty average collage-making time for me, except for the band next to me and the people singing on the ground before me. But the moment David starting hitting those drums, I knew this would be unlike anything else in my life. The stage I was sitting on shook from the drums, and the lights flashed and arced across the stage and danced around the room. I arranged, rearranged, glued, and arranged and glued more. I dripped paint on the canvas, I tilted it around to see from different angles, I glued and arranged some more. And the whole time, I could feel my heart pounding with the drums and my hands moving to the beat and sway of the music. And it felt amazing. 

I finished my collage after the others finished their painting and paper sculpture, about halfway through the service. Not wanting to miss anything I slipped off the stage and took a seat in the crowd, and picked at the drying glue on my hands. I rarely get glue or paint on the floor or on my clothing, so that's cool, but you can always tell by my hands if I've been making art!

Near the end of the service, we three artists took our finished pieces up on the stage. We were asked to explain our work. I hate public speaking, so of course this was not what I wanted to be doing, but I did.

This is one I've been thinking about for a long time, I told them. To me, this is what worship looks like. Dancing amidst the rocks and sharp edges; dancing not for oneself, but for God. 

Nick, an incredible artist with an awesome skill in performance painting, had painted a human heart with the word "Speak" across it. Codie masterfully crumpled and folded paper into the shapes of two human hands with a large spike driven through each palm. Nick explained that worship means speaking out for (and to) God, and Codie explained that his sculpture was of Jesus' hands when he was crucified; a representation of the one we worship, and why. 

My friends, there really is nothing like sitting on a stage next to the drum kit, all the cables and electric cords snaking around, and making art alongside a live band. And there's nothing like going into a worship service feeling drained and stressed just to climb up on the stage and make an art piece about that very feeling. Because I believe worship is about looking at God when the weather is ugly. Looking at God when you had to fire someone, or you've been fired. Looking at God when you break your wrist, you grandfather's in the hospital, or your baby won't sleep through the night. Worship is doing whatever you do best while looking at God, despite tired feet or a stressful day at work.

What are your thoughts about worship? Have you had a particularly eye-opening experience recently?

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