BY FAITH AND NOT BY SIGHT
This past week I had the special privilege of spending a few days at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. As requested, I led music in chapel worship and lectured to various class groupings as well as local worship music leaders primarily addressing worship renewal and congregational singing. The time with seminarians, faculty, staff, and local music leaders was a feast of fellowship, spiritual nurture, and intellectual stimulation. Seminary education for those training for worship and music leadership has changed immensely since my days at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Administration and faculty have made great strides toward adapting to present day context while maintaining scholastic, biblical, historic integrity. Even the medium of delivery continues to stretch to meet the needs of our postmodern culture. Many of those on campus for this week’s lecture series were distance learners. I am indebted to Dr. Greg Woodward, Dr. Ed Steele, and Dr. Michael Sharp for their invitation and warm hospitality during my time in New Orleans.
On Friday night a few students joined together for a journey through the famous French Quarter to sample the always delicious beignets and café au lait at Café Du Monde. I had already been to dinner with Greg Woodward and two of his sons. As he was trying to work out details of the trip to the Quarter he included the special arrangements that might be needed to accommodate one of the classmates, Andrew West along with his wife and two children. Andy and wife, Joanna are both sight impaired. The mile-long journey from parking spot through crowded streets over crevice-laidened sidewalks became something of a faith walk. I was honored to escort Joanna through the busy streets. Her blind walking cane served her well for much of the journey, though I found my fatherly instincts constantly kicking in to try and warrant off what I thought were potential collisions with trash bins, sidewalk tables, and inattentive pedestrians. As our pace picked up Joanna finally just grasped my hand and we continued to chat as we walked with our entourage past jazz clubs, street corner musical groups, a fire blower, and other typical New Orleans ambiance. Oh, did I mention that Andy and Joanna each had one of their two children strapped to their bodies in a carry sling? As a spoiled fully sighted person, I admit I was absolutely amazed at their resilience and determination to be a part of the shared fellowship experience. When meandering through the marketplace of artisans they paused and felt the texture of some of the trinkets and creations the rest of us gazed upon with our functioning eyes. Their comments, interaction and explanations to their sighted children were an inspirational demonstration of patience.
Post-lecture discussions with Andy revealed a mind serious about liturgical enquiry, truth discovery, and Kingdom servanthood. After the first session he told me he was looking forward to reading my book. His use of words threw me off at first, and then I realized, of course, that he could download the book on Kindle which can read aloud the pages. His talk of beauty and having “seen” certain things, again gave me pause to grasp why he would use such terminology of observation. The journey to the French themed café, however, opened my own eyes to the beautiful truth right before me. These two beautiful persons, created in the image of God, saw quite well in their own right. Their faithful quest to know and do the will of their Creator was a wonderful lesson for me in our time together and beyond. Even as we addressed in our worship classes, worship reorients us to right thinking about the world and ourselves in it. As we consider God’s deliverance in days past through remembrance (anamnesis), and project the hope and assurance of recreation and new life in eternity ahead (prolepsis) thanks to His triumphal victory, we worship in light of our trust in Him. Our spiritual act of worship is rooted in who He is, Father, Son, and Spirit. We walk by faith and not by sight. We worship by faith and not by sight. When we stand together to sing our song of praise; when we stretch our thoughts to embrace the Triune God we cannot see, but boldly proclaim to be with us; when we release our imagination to be fueled by truth of scripture; when we reach beyond our preferred stylistic expression to prefer others above ourselves, we walk by faith and not by sight. And others will declare about us “God is really among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:25)
Thank you, Andy and Joanna for your example of faith and trust. Thank you, NOBTS Worship & Music faculty, staff, and students for loving fellowship that welcomed me in, and that points toward a promising future for our churches. Together we root our worship in a journey where we walk by faith and not by sight.
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