“Half-hearted praise is no praise at all.” That’s what the worship leader said. He was trying to get us to sing louder, I think, or more enthusiastically. He wanted us to be whole-hearted, all in. “Come on, church.”
I’ve stood where he stands. I may even have offered that call. But I can’t anymore.
It may be a true statement, when talking to an individual, with an awareness of a pattern of half-hearted commitment. The young man who approached Jesus wanting to know how to inherit eternal life. After a bit of conversation, Jesus told him to sell everything he had and to follow Jesus. The man was unwilling to make that commitment. He walked away. Jesus let him walk.
But a gathering of people in a service of singing may have a variety of reasons for not singing loudly. Hannah, for example, was begging God for a child. She was moving her lips but making no sound. The worship leader, Eli, scolded her for being drunk. Hannah had the courage to explain her breaking heart. Broken-hearted pleading is praise indeed.
In some season of grief, David wrote
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But You, O Lord—how long?”
Soul-scraping grieving is worship indeed.
In any given gathering on any given day, are people who are delighted and depressed and distracted, rejoicing and weeping and weary, laughing and lamenting and lackadaisical. In fact, you, reading this post, could be anywhere on that list. Thrilled to be out of rehab. Grieving the anniversary of a death. Wondering how this phase of life will turn out.
Here’s what I’d love to hear from the front.
“Welcome. My invitation is to join in conversation together with each other and with God. And I invite God to offer healing and hope and health and presence. Some of us will find it easy today to sing loud. Some of us will need to weep quietly. All of us are welcome, undespised by God, undemanded by me. Let’s sing.”