Volume Up

David Crowder at The Warnors . . . CheeseCake Comatose . . . Ramblings on Buying Worship . . . & Unmute Me

The Warnors Theater in Fresno California was slowly filling with worshipers of all ages as the April sun crept west into the fading Saturday evening. Getting in and finding our seats was easy, but finding a parking spot among low-riders on one-way streets, wandering high school students dressed to the nines (Winter Formal), bunched families trickling along crosswalks, and random dudes urinating in back alleys (you needn’t see them actually hunkered in a corner to know this was going on - you could easily smell it from about 100 yards) was challenging in the construction riddled labyrinth called Downtown. But after a few missed turns and laps we were finally able to park in a hidden spot, 2nd level of a parking garage.

Previous to this, we had too much cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Note: when planning to attend a concert, DO NOT fill up on dairy laden sweets. I hadn't thought of this before the drummer kicked things off, but only desired to conquer whatever was placed before me, even if it was a heavy macaroni & cheese burger, side of sweet potato fries and a too rich for this kid piece of white-chocolate-macadamia-nut-caramel-cheesecake. I’d learned my lesson some 10 years ago in Seattle. That Cheesecake Factory got the best of me. My manhood had been seriously challenged when I couldn’t finish my dessert. I left in shame and vowed never to repeat the failure least a curse of 7 generations befall any Talbot who dare enter the Cheesecake Factory.

Bloated, we strolled into The Warnors while the opening band, The Young Escape, warmed up the crowd. I hadn’t been to a concert in . . . I couldn’t remember. It had been a while, four, maybe five years, or more. And I couldn’t remember who I’d last seen. But that didn’t matter. The place had a good vibe to it. The opening act was engaging the crowd between songs, taking their time and having a little bit of fun with the easy going attendees. Nobody seemed in a hurry. We all knew Crowder was gonna play shortly.

This wasn’t my first worship concert. I’ve been to others (mostly in churches) and have always found the line between worship and entertainment fuzzy. I get that we want to get something out of the experience. I mean, we do buy tickets to get in, so that’s something to consider (as well as the merchandise). There are expectations placed on the bands. And they better deliver or we ain’t picking up any of their shirts after the show.

Ah yes, the acquisitive nature. Do we go to these things to meet with God or with someone famous? Are we inclined to fill our hands or empty our hearts? The Psalmist says, “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God” (Psalm 95:6-7a). This sentiment and soul searching worked its way into my thoughts as I sat and stared around the theater. Here we were, capturing the whole thing on our phones while simultaneously worshiping and texting friends about the loud base and “I can barely understand what he’s saying up there” complaints.

Maybe we hadn’t really come to worship at all?

Or maybe we had. It’s the 21st Century, after all, and we better get used to worshiping amidst the nagging distractions of our devices. Incorporating them into the experience has been the norm since the death of camcorders. So what was it? Surely not my own heart? Did I show up with a soul full of worshipful expectations? Or was I merely there to check things out and listen to some good music?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We all need a break from the fast paced world of deadlines and the grind of meetings. Day to day life tends to mute joy and fun; it’s there, playing in our subconscious, somewhere. We just need a divine touch to get the song’s volume up.

That was definitely part of it, but it wasn’t the whole thing. It was a heart thing. I needed a venue away from the pulpit to worship and open my mind to the Spirit without having to think about the Sermon. I needed a place to come humbly and bow before the Lord as one in the congregation. I needed to be like the priest who sat a few rows down - amidst the church to simply be the church. I needed to essentially forget myself and concentrate on the glory of God.

And I did.

And then I left Fresno to pick up our daughter, go home, fall asleep and preach the next morning with the vlolume up in fun and joy.