Has this ever happened to you? You are hanging out with a group of people and everyone is getting hungry. The group collectively decides to order pizza because, of course, it is economical and delicious. One unsuspecting member of the group naively throws out the question: “What kind should we get?” After twenty-five minutes of deliberation to figure out how to divide a pizza into 5 equal parts with 3 different crusts so that everyone gets exactly what they want, everyone gives up and orders sandwiches.
I can think of a time or two in college that followed this scenario. We each have our own likes and dislikes and, especially in the US, we are accustomed to being able to customize everything from our cars to our coffees to be exactly what we want. So when we are faced with a simple exercise in reaching consensus, such as ordering food with friends, it can quickly spiral out of control. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with having different preferences, on pizza and in life. In fact, it’s a great thing that can bring diversity into our world. The question is whether we are going to regard those preferences higher than our friends and neighbors.
During Lent this year my church participated in an event that brought together five churches in Peoria to each play their style of worship music for each other. When I first heard about the event I was really excited. As you may have guessed, I have a particular passion around people coming together in spite of their differences. I turned down invitations to other activities because I could not miss this opportunity. Secretly I hoped that this would be a step toward unifying the churches in our city!
It is safe to say that the event didn’t exactly deliver on these high hopes. The band from my church was the first to play. They did quite well. In spite of the fact that the sound mix wasn’t ideal, the performance of all original songs written by musicians in our church was certainly impressive. I have always been proud of my church’s musical creativity, but apparently I took it for granted. The other churches’ groups consisted of a guitar ensemble and several choirs (or chorales or choruses, I never can tell the difference), some with and some without accompaniment. One of the choirs was really good. The others were interesting to listen to, but mostly not my cup of tea. Certainly none of them did I prefer over my own church’s music.
Not sure what exactly I was expecting. Judging by my level of disappointment I must have been expecting the closing scene of The Grinch where all of the Whos join hands around the towering Christmas tree and sing together. You know, a happily ever after kind of a moment. Looking back on it, I realize that I missed the point. The point was not for everyone to be converted to the single most holy style of music. The point was to be in the same room with others who worship the same God and experience their way of worshiping him.
I don’t want everyone to sing the same worship songs any more than I want everyone to eat the same kind of pizza. God created us to be diverse beings and that is a beautiful thing that we should celebrate. But if you happen to be planning a party to celebrate our differences, I’m not coming unless there is pecan pie.