One special moment surprised me during the Halifax Keswick Convention. One night's session was planned for young people - who were very evident! Responding to the loud rocky music, (with very thoughtful lyrics I must say), they jumped up and down and clapping vigorously at the front of the auditorium. It was high decibel active praise.
Later, when I began speaking, I mentioned how my wife had suggested that I get up and join them. Laughter greeted the suggestion and I explained how, anyway, I needed all my breath to preach.
When I finished, the musicians came up and began to play for the concluding part of worship. As the young people rose to take their place along the front again, one young man rushed across and pulled me up out of my seat. Very self-consciously I joined in at the end of the line. I feebly identifed with limited body action (!) as I found myself surrounded by real enthusiasts. Two girls came up alongside. One said: "You're doing well!" and then she added poignantly: "We are so glad you joined us."
Music can be a great divider and so easily break people into groups. And yet, it can also be a bridge between generations. Sure, it wasn't my first choice of music (nor my second!) but this worship enabled these young people to express their love for the Lord, and they wanted to include me. How much is it worth joining together across age boundaries and style preferences? Let's rephrase that question: How much is it worth to God who longs to create a new kind of worshiping community in Christ (Gal 3:28)?
So many questions arise?
Why do musical tastes clash so violently? (Thomas Troeger writes of "sonic cultures" - that we need to understand our own so that we can relate to others' too. Tension seems inevitable).
Did I please God by joining in the young people's loud praise music?
What were my motives? Was this a genuine way to show love and to strive for unity in the body of Christ?
Would they be as willing to join me in more reflective music? (I think some were there other sessions!)
Would it ever be possible (or desirable) to choose music in worship that would enable us to share in services together? How much would we have to suppress musical tastes? Is that a way of showing love to God and neighbor?
Should music have such a major role in setting worship parameters anyway? Isn't there so much more to gathered worship than music?
I believe that I glimpsed something afresh of the love that we need to show to one another if the unity of Christ's body is to be safeguarded. Is this easy when it comes to music? No. But some things are worth striving for. Working through implications of this experience needs so more thought, but I am so glad I went through it.