After a Sunday off celebrating our anniversary and Father’s Day it was a blessing to be back in worship!
This past weekend we sang the following tunes, please consider purchasing them if you enjoyed them to support the artists who are blessing the church:
- “O Praise Him” by David Crowder Band
- “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin
- “If You Wash Us” by Tommy Welty
- “Rejoice” by Dustin Kensrue
- “Glory is Yours” by Elevation Worship
If you haven’t seen Pixar’s newest classic “Inside Out” you’re in sin. Also, beware potential spoilers for that movie and other Pixar films.
Like I wrote earlier I watch too many cartoons for being such a serious burly manly man but this next opinion is a fact: Pixar is just far and above the best company producing cartoons right now. Who can argue against a catalog that includes the Toy Story Trilogy, “Wall-E,” “Ratatouille,” “Finding Nemo,” and “The Incredibles.” The guy who directed “Inside Out”, Pete Docter, also directed “Up!” and who can forget the sob fest that was the first ten minutes of that movie? I mean what cartoon starts with a lifelong love story, that features either infertility or a miscarriage and then the death of a beloved spouse? Which cartoon includes those things at all?
There’s a prevailing idea in the world that children, and thus adults, need to be protected from harsh reality. Author of “Where the Wild Things Are” (a truly terrifying classic) Maurice Sendak writes:
Certainly we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and that intensify anxiety; and to a point we can prevent premature exposure to such experiences. That is obvious. But what is just as obvious — and what is too often overlooked — is the fact that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.
Pixar knows this when they make movies. Their films are honest. They approach the “Wild Things” of everyday life through the fantastic and the simple. While cartoons from lesser – my opinion (still fact) – production companies try to protect children, and us, from complex and difficult reality Pixar rushes in and grabs all our tears and yanks ’em out. And “Inside Out” is no different.
“Inside Out” maybe more than the others demands of us to deal with our inner life. Considering it’s outward narrative of a young girl moving to a new town is not all that profound though the movie is. The dual narrative, one which is common and the other profound, allows us to reach into our minds and hearts and examine our inner lives. The movie demands us to address all of our emotions, not just the ones we enjoy. With the final statement that sadness is valid, and important. We need sadness. Big spoilers: Joy needs sadness. We can’t hide our unpleasant and unwanted emotions in a chalk circle.
What all does this have to do with yesterday’s worship service?
Everything. I’m tempted most weeks, every week, to prepare happy set lists. Pick the top performing song on Air1 or K-Love (“Oceans” it is always “Oceans”) and play that as fast and as happy as possible with a big cheesy grin and a few catchphrases between verses: “Isn’t God just swell? Sing with me!”
I finished writing “If You Wash Us” over two years ago. When I write (a song, a poem, a short story) I go through a lot of revisions. A single poem or song can take me months to write until I’m comfortable enough to share it with Alyssa, let alone the rest of the world. “If You Wash Us”, a song meant for gathered worship, was at that point over two years ago.
But it’s not an easy song to sing. Its not a big radio hit, its not a happy melody, the harmonies are harsh, and lyrically it looks right into the depth of things and says: “You’re messed up.” And it never resolves. There is no happy ending. Just a cry for help and then the song ends.
For the past two years I’ve kept it in a chalk circle in the other room, hopefully shielding myself and New Song Inland Hills from having to look inward and examine what we find. It’s apparent that we’re comfortable with sin, like I joked in service, I’m on Facebook. We just wrongly assume that sin is a germ Out There and its trying to infect us. But the reality is that sin is a sickness in us infecting the rest of the world.
Like Pixar has been demanding us to do since Toy Story first came out twenty years ago – we need to look at the difficult things in us. We’ve all had hard weeks and it’s tempting to ask church to protect us from that reality. And what about the guests? We don’t want to bum them out! But I’m starting to think we all need catharsis.
Martin Luther writes in “The Bondage of the Will:”
There is no cure until the disease is diagnosed.
So we confess our sins in church. We let that bad feeling out of its circle. Because stories, fantasy, and play are “…the best means [we] have for taming Wild Things.” But our liturgies and ordinary means of grace – reading the word, our songs, our prayers, communion, baptism, etc – is where the Holy Spirit tames us Wild Things.