Worship: when lyrics DON’T matter

Bari Skyline 2

When one Word is greater than than many words

I just got back yesterday from an amazing three week trip to Kolkata, India with my wife, Ashlee.  I somehow stayed awake all day yesterday, crashed about 8 o’clock last night, and then woke up wide awake at 6am this morning.  My body is wide awake, but I can tell it’s still tired and a bit worn from the long flights, even though my heart feels full and at peace back here at home. I woke up with this story from my trip on my mind:
I missed worship my first Sunday in India because I was sick in bed.  It was the first time I’d missed Sunday worship in I don’t know how long…and it didn’t feel good.  The rest of the week just felt a bit off. But by my second Sunday my body had recovered, and I was finally able to worship at the Assemblies of God Church in Kolkata.  It’s a really great community that has multiple services in English, Bengali, Tamil, Hindi, and like 3 other languages I’ve never even heard of.  They do all kinds of justice work throughout the city, and I think it’s probably the largest, most vibrant church in the city.

Anyway – after our singing several songs in English, and a time of greeting and announcements, we are all invited to stand up and sing a worship song in Hindi that will open us up and lead us into the sermon.
I don’t know Hindi.
People are standing and singing together – and I can tell from the simple melody and the narrow range and the stripped down instrumentation that this has the feel of a timeless congregational hymn, and is something they sing a lot – probably something akin to me singing the Doxology.  The lyrics are on the screen, but, it feels silly for me to sing along if I have no idea what I’m saying.  So, I stand back, and while the words don’t mean anything to me and I’m totally removed from the experience, it’s nice on some level to be able to watch a community singing something to God together.  But I’m definitely just an observer, not a participant.
And then, all of the sudden, there’s one Hindi word I recognize:



And they keep singing it…Yeshu becomes this refrain that beings to repeat itself over and over and suddenly, and as I put that single word onto my lips and begin to sing I find myself crying.  And soon Ashlee and I are both worshiping – her eyes are closed, hands raised, and a smile is on her face…meanwhile tears are beginning to slip off of my face and onto the marble floor and I’m kind of gripping the pew in front of me to hold myself up…I’m really a mess in the best way possible. I realized in that moment that Yeshu is the only word we need…it’s the only word in a whole worship set that I wanted to hear, and it’s the only one I want to sing.  Every other word was totally meaningless to me until that beautiful and transformative Word grabbed a hold of my heart.

One small Word that changed the whole world forever…

So may we find the wisdom and courage to cut out the volumes and volumes of other words that are written in our own hearts and in our communities…and may we invite others, as we ourselves are invited, to the one Word the whole world is desperate to sing…

Speak Your Mind