Last night I had the joy of sitting in the center of the front row for the Bruce Hornsby concert at Wolf Trap. I have never sat anywhere but the lawn at Wolf Trap, so coming inside was quite a treat. Walking all the way down to the front row and to the two center seats nearly put me beside myself, as you can imagine.
We sat down, and the band soon came on stage (we missed the opening act since we were enjoying burritos at Chipotle!). Bruce sat down at the piano and began to tickle the Grand Steinway keyboard in a way that I have never seen a grand piano played before. He played a beautiful melody, and then his band started to play with him. The drummer used his sticks to strike a myriad of drums, eliciting an incredible sound. A person played several other electronic keyboards. Two people played bass guitar. And one person played a variety of other instruments, including a mandolin.
At first, it seemed like just another concert -- a concert of a band who I had heard but didn't really love. But then everything changed. I started to watch how the faces of each musician lit up when he played his instrument. I watched as Bruce interacted with each one, delicately lifting a hand, signifying that one was to play louder or join in the vocals with him. Everyone was working together. Everyone on stage was smiling. Everyone seemed to love what they were doing. I had a hard time believing that this performance was their job -- the band members were all enjoying it too much -- as if they did not get to play together very often.
The concert was amazing. I now love Bruce Hornsby and am considering going to see him again when he is in Annapolis later this fall. And, believe it or not, I learned a little about the church last night.
Each band member got to shine at some point during the concert. During each song, the spotlight would shine upon one band member -- not just Bruce Hornsby. Each musician was able to play a solo, with the spotlight shining brightly on his performance -- on his specific talent. Each person took delight in what they were doing. Each person played their part with joy -- with sheer, beautiful, unbound, joy. And Bruce Hornsby made sure that the audience knew that it was an entire band, and not just him, who was making music.
And then something beautiful happened. The joy of performing on stage was shared with many audience members. Towards the end of the show, concert goers were allowed to fill the sides of the stage and dance. A woman danced with a baby on her back. A young boy who appeared to be about ten years old danced. A middle aged woman danced. A gray haired man danced. Many young adults danced. Each person was filled with joy as they joined the band members on stage who had shared the same joy all evening. Everyone was caught up in the rhythm and the beauty of the night.
We gather each week as a church. We come to worship the Lord, to confess our sins, to hear God's Word read and proclaimed, to pray together, to celebrate the sacraments, and to receive nourishment for our weary souls. What would happen if we all did these acts of worship with enormous smiles on our faces? What would happen if we all remembered that each one of us has an instrument to play -- a gift to share? What would happen if we entered God's house with joy, approaching each worship experience as if it were our first time experiencing God's amazing love? Would those watching want to join in the celebration...and maybe even dance?
In the author notes at the very beginning of the book, Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes:
"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theatre in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way."
It was clear to me last night that Bruce Hornsby loves playing the piano and singing to the delight of fans in the audience. His drummer loves beating the drums, his technical guy loves balancing the speakers, his guitarists love strumming the strings. And, I loved watching them...so much that I danced last night...and woke up wanting to play the piano this morning...to play the piano just like Bruce Hornsby.
May we carry out the practices that shape us as Christians with passion, love and delight. May our witness be one that is contagious, one that draws people in, enabling others to want to catch the joy and model the same witness. May "Amen" not be our only response to what we see, hear and experience, but may we also dance!