Tag Archives: worship

Zydeco Mass

my family attended an amazing, joy-filled Zydedo Mass eucharist service tuesday night with some friends, at st. paul’s episcopal church in san diego. it was an absolutely beautiful and unique worship experience. i captured some of it in short videos and photos. here’s a taste:

my family and a friend (not a video):

the processional

reading of scripture:

reading of the gospel (not a video):

“dance your offerings to the front”:


the washboard player was one of the only people who didn’t seem amused; but he was awesome in his own curmudgeonly way (not a video):

the recessional:

experiential, joy-filled worship, man. couldn’t all our churches use a bit more of that!?

dancing in the streets of port-au-prince

i posted, a few times, about the day we were surprised to find people dancing in the streets of port-au-prince. but ian robertson, our videographer, just finished up a little video of that day. and watching it, all the emotions come flooding back: surprise, joy, longing. i pray that the people of haiti are still finding reasons for hope and joy in the midst of their ongoing pain. i pray that we americans (and canadians, and brits, and others) will not forget them, or get weary of hearing about their need.


(blog note: i’m going camping with my family today, and a few other families, in yosemite. we’ll be there until thursday. i’ve not “spring camped” before, and am nervous about freezing my butt off. today and tomorrow are supposed to be ok, with highs around 60. but by wednesday, it’s supposed to be raining/snowing with a high of 38 and a low of 25. that’s not tent camping weather in my book. sorry, i don’t have any blog posts lined up for while i’m gone — so none ’til i get back. later!)

aspiration & ebenezers, with additional definitions of a personal nature

as·pi·ra·tion (as-puh-rey-shun), noun.

1. strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations.

2. a goal or objective desired: The presidency is the traditional aspiration of young American boys.

3. act of aspirating; breath.

4. Phonetics.

a. articulation accompanied by an audible puff of breath, as in the h-sound of how, or of when (hwen), or in the release of initial stops, as in the k-sound of key.
b. the use of an aspirate in pronunciation.

5. Medicine/Medical.

a. the act of removing a fluid, as pus or serum, from a cavity of the body, by a hollow needle or trocar connected with a suction syringe.
b. the act of inhaling fluid or a foreign body into the bronchi and lungs, often after vomiting.

6. when marko attends church, as in this morning, and finds that — even though he loves his church and the people there — he experiences no connection (with people or with god); and, as a result, finds himself ‘practicing’ the practice of worship and engagement, without the experience thereof, with the intent that the experience and knowledge and belief will, at another time to come, seem once again real and authentic. in this sense, every action and many ‘beliefs’ practiced by marko this morning were done so with aspiration.

Eb·en·e·zer (eb-uh-nee-zer), noun.

1. a male given name: from a Hebrew word meaning “stone of help.”

2. male proper name, sometimes also the name of a Protestant chapel or meeting house, from name of a stone raised by Samuel to commemorate a victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh (I Sam. vii.12), from Heb. ebhen ezar “stone of help,” from ebhen “stone” + ezer “help.”

3. what marko draws on during mornings like this one, where attendance and participation at church feel hollow and fake (not that anyone else there was being hollow and fake — marko was the one who felt hollow and fake). in the midst of choosing to sing some of the songs about god and jesus and stuff, marko remembers that only last week he was in argentina, explaining to a room full of latin youth workers, the value of viewing spiritually intense moments (which are inevitable in youth ministry), when not manipulated, as ebenezers: spiritual markers of “god met me/us here” in the journey of adolescence. this memory, which came during a particularly hollow and fake moment of participating in singing a chris tomlin song — so much so that marko just stopped singing and stood there — caused marko to reflect back on the ebenezers in his recent journey, the recent “god met me here” moments. interesting that the sermon was on the old testament joseph, a dude who certainly would have had his share of “god met me here” moments interspersed with long periods of some opposite experience (what we might call the “inverse-nezer”).

lucas did a claiborne/leap of faith mashup

our convention in argentina ended well sunday night. the spirit of the event was as joyous and electric as usual. youth workers in the states are often (certainly not always) a bit jaded and skeptical. but this is not the case here in latin america — they are, 100%, expectant and engaged. this makes every aspect of the event a total blast.

the event had a handful of behind-the-scenes problems this year — nothing the participants would have known about. but it had lucas and the organizers a bit stressed. earlier in the week, during a time of prayer, lucas had felt god impress on his heart that he should speak in the closing session, that he should have german ortiz (pronounced “herman”, or “hair-mon” in spanish) speak. german and lucas started a grass-roots youth organization called lagram when they were 17 years old, and german still leads this organization.

then there was the high maintanance worship leader.

a super-popular spanish worship leader was one of the “big deal” presenters this year. he was set to give a general session talk sunday morning, then lead worship sunday night. his people called early sunday and said he didn’t want to take the flight we’d arranged from buenos aires, and that someone had arranged to bring him and his band over to mendoza on a private jet. problem was: the jet wasn’t available exactly when we needed him there. we pushed back that we have the schedule all arranged, and we need him there on time. his people said he was really tired, and needed the private jet to rest. so we reshuffled things in that session a bit, and had a bus waiting for him and his band at the airport.

but the private jet was late. lucas went to plan b and had german give the talk sunday morning (on 10 minutes notice). german hit it out of the park, and all was good at the convention. but when the noted worship leader dude arrived, he and his band were ticked. then, some of his band members complained that they didn’t have enough sound check time in the afternoon, and refused to play. so the dude phoned in a time of worship leading with a partial band (and, a female singer who was supposed to do a few songs backed by his band refused to sing without his full band — geez!).

add all this up, and lucas had a quandry on his hands. german had already spoken in the morning session, and the worship leader dude wasn’t going to speak; and only did a reasonably short set or worship songs (with his eyes closed the entire time, i might add).

while the session was already in motion, lucas wasn’t sure what to do. he said to me, “i’m thinking of doing a shane claiborne.”

for those who don’t know… last fall at our national youth workers convention in atlanta, shane clairborne was to speak. and we all expected a great talk about justice and the poor. but shane took the stage, talked a bit about how he’d wondered what he could do that would match the production of the event, did some fire-breathing thing, then said he was going to bring “the best sermon ever given.” he proceeded to open a bible, and read the entire sermon on the mount. then he closed with a short prayer, and walked off the stage. it was stunning — the word of god, unencumbered. really, a very beautiful and memorable moment.

well, lucas played that card. he did the exact same thing (minus the fire-breathing). he said he wondered how he could close this event in a way that would really be powerful, say something that would really have an impact. then he said he’d decided to bring the best sermon ever given. and he read. and read. and read.

after he finished reading, though, he still had to close the event (it was the last 10 or 15 minutes of the whole thing). so he had two or three of the bands that had stuck around through the whole thing (not the noted worship dude – he’d already left, with bodyguards) come out on stage, and invited all of us who participated in some way (the organizers and speakers) on stage, and we all sang the hymn, “there is power in the blood.” i was the token gringo, so i was singing in english; but 3000 youth workers were singing their lungs out in spanish. the band kicked it into a total jam groove, and lucas — seriously, with some boost of the holy spirit or adrenaline or both — morphed into steve martin’s character from the movie “leap of faith”! lucas was leading the singing, but he was dancing around the front of the stage like the best pentecostal tent preacher ever. somehow it worked. maybe it was the context. but it didn’t seem like a show — it was a massive joyous praise fest to god. i could hardly supress my laughter (and didn’t more than once).

world youth day update, days 3 and 4

my time here in sydney has continued to be wonderful. saturday, the lifeteen staff and i climbed the sydney harbor bridge. i have pics, but forgot the disc in my room — i’ll post them later. it was a very cool experience for a couple reasons. first, it’s a fun excursion, and a gorgeous view of sydney. but to make it more cool, we climbed the bridge when it was closed to car traffic for the world youth day pilgrimage. tens of thousands of teenagers from around the globe were trekking from north sydney, across the bridge, to the spot where the saturday evening prayer vigil would occur. so our view, as we climbed, was of thousands of teenagers walking in pilgrimage. it was really a wonderful and joy-filled sight.

after a bit of rest, i made my way out to the huge racecourse where the vigil was taking place. it was seriously nuts. best guesses are that over 200,000 where there (they say 500,000 were there the following day for the closing mass). i don’t know if i have ever seen so many people stretched out in one place. youth groups were spread out all over the place with sleeping bags, as they all spend the night there in vigil. for the portion i was there, there was a large program taking place on a massive stage (with truly world-class sound and visual support — jumbo-trons all over the place, and perfect sound everywhere).

the program involved teens from all over the world sharing a short testimony about god’s work in their lives. each of these teens spoke in their native language, so i could only understand about one in every five who happened to be speaking in english. but i could get the gist of all of them, and it was very moving. i think the one that moved me the most was the girl who spoke on behalf of deaf teenagers, in sign language (but an australian translated into english). she spoke about how being deaf has been a gift in her life — it was truly beautiful.

after each of these testimonies, the pope read a short prayer, then everyone in the entire place sang a short chorus — a verse that had been written for world youth day. when they sang, they lifted up lit candles. have you ever seen 200,000 candles being lifted into a dark sky while teenagers sang words like this?

receive the power of the holy spirit
receive the power to be light unto the world

it really took my breath away.

but at some point, as i was walking around, observing kids with their candles, watching them sing, i noticed that i was completely in spectator mode. i stopped in front of a jumbotron and watched for a bit. when the song came around, i listened, and realized it was dumb that i wasn’t singing along. so the next time the chorus started up, i opened my mouth and started singing.

and i instantly started crying. it was just such a stunning experience, singing those words with hundreds of thousands of teenagers, accompanied by a choir and orchestra made up of teenagers.

here are a couple photos…

there is really no way to capture the magnitude of this thing. this picture shows about 5% of the view from where i was standing the moment.

these were the scenes i saw repeated a hundred-fold as i walked around. teens standing alone, or in groups, singing, listening, praying (and of course, some of them just chatting).

sunday, i had a nice breakfast with matt maher, the worship leader. then i entered into 24 hours of silence. i slept and read and prayed. mostly just in my hotel room.

a snapshot of modern worship

in rob stennett’s fictional “the almost true story of ryan fisher“, he has a hilarious and uncomfortably accurate portrayal of modern worship. katherine, the wife of a semi-athiest (ryan fisher) who has started an extremely successful church plant to make him rich and important, is coaching the worship band (lead by a karaoke singing cowboy who is also not a christian, and, until this point, has been leading pop-culture songs with a few words changed). none of them are aware that there’s a large collection of modern worship songs, until the church starts to grow, and transfer growth brings people who point this out. fantastic paragraph:

and katherine was making the band better. after talking with a couple of members from the church she learned there were worship leaders that wrote songs specifically for god and church. a lot of the music had a british pop feel as if they were watered down, simple versions of u2 or coldplay. and almost all of the songs were essentially about three things. the first: how great-awesome-incredible-powerful-majestic jesus/god is/was/and forever will be. the second: how much we love-thank-adore-worship-bow down to jesus/god. the third: how happy-touched-amazed and pumped up we were that jesus/god saved us. that was pretty much it. there were thousands of these types of songs, yet so many of the lyrics were nearly identical. it was almost as if a songwriter could take one song, change five or six words, and then have an all-new song.