January 26, 2004


So yeah... I am pretty sure that today's chapel message has to be down there with some of my worse chapel experiences. Granted, before we go any further, I will point out that I think the speaker has a good heart and had every good intention in her talk this morning. That said, I didn't think it was worthy of my hearing in a mandatory chapel.

The message itself was on an attitude of worship, and had all of the depths of a puddle... and not the knee-deep variety that you find on LeTourneau sidewalks. While doctrinally sound, there was very little biblical reference save one verse. In fact, there was a reference to the Student Handbook and to the LeTourneau University Catalogue before we even got to the scripture.

The key verse itself was Isaiah 61:3... and actually she started at verse 1 and read about half of that before hopping to verse 3, completely wrenching it out of context and skipping over verse 2.

To go back to the source:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."
Isaiah 61:1-3 (emphasis added)

Granted, while I can give the speaker credit for adhering fairly closely to the intended meaning of the text, I will point to the bolded text to note that the Day of the Lord is come in this text and while there is love and restoration for those who have been punished for their sins, there is also a subtle undertone of warning for those who would perpetuate their sin. This undertone is much less subtle when the passage is read in its place in the literary unit of Isaiah 56-66, but the core idea remains that this is a passage of restoration following repentance and God's justice. Let us not read this to be a "Get out of Jail Free."

Other passages were wrenched out of context with even less care for the original message. Psalm 22:3, originally part of a prayer of despair on the part of David, becomes the embodiment of God blessing those who praise him. Even better is Job 38, which the speaker turned into an illustration of God's response to prayer when it should be God's wrathful challenge to Job.

The simple fact of the matter is that while the heart of the message was in the right place, the head was not. As the speaker charged through her scatter-brained diatribe of platitudes with all of the emotionally-laden diction and desperate pleading of the stereotypical Baptist minister at the altar call and with all of the solid basis and clear logic of a celebrity spokesman on an infomercial, I couldn't help but get irritated. These two points especially bothered me:

1) Worship is the act of us exchanging sad feelings for happy feelings
Plain and simple, worship is about God. God might see fit to bless us in living our lives to please him and, in fact, frequently does so. However, this doesn't take away the pure and simple fact that worship is to be focused on God and is all about God and to cheapen it into "The Great Exchange" is very distasteful to me.

2) LeTourneau sets standards to grow us in faith - hail LeTourneau
I'm not going to go into any great detail about this one, except that to note that the claim that LeTourneau policy has the spiritual growth of the students ahead of its other interests should smell funny and seem suspect to any who have attended this University for any length of time.

In the end, while I won't deny that the speaker's message was honest and from the heart, it was also simplistic and cheap. If we are going to have chapel speakers and mandate that students attend chapel and listen respectfully to them, we should also demand better than this... demand that they be worthy of a respectful hearing. Because honestly, I've heard better lessons in elementary Sunday School.

But then again... that will start when these chapels run based on internal politics stop.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at January 26, 2004 06:29 PM | TrackBack