Summary: Energy and passion in worship are fine, but they must push us toward authentic living and toward dedicated mission, else they will be destructive.
I could not help noticing this car that morning. It was a tiny little car, one of those that looks like a sardine can on wheels. The rust spots and the dents suggested that it had survived more than its share of bumps and bruises.
But that was not all that made me notice this little puddle jumper; what grabbed my attention was the way it was moving down Colesville Road toward Silver Spring. It was coming up behind me pretty fast, and in my rear-view mirror I could see it wandering from lane to lane, weaving its way in and out of morning rush hour traffic, seemingly with fitful starts and stops and all kinds of peculiar maneuvers. As it got closer to my car, it straddled the lane lines, as if the driver were trying to decide which lane, if any, to drive in.
Other drivers behind me were blowing their horns and dodging from one side to the other as best they could, and I began to think about sane sort of defensive maneuver myself. I had concluded that we had some kind of maniac in our midst, or somebody in an awful hurry, or more likely yet, someone whose night of imbibing had lasted right on through into the morning. I really did think that the safest conclusion, based on what my rear-view mirror told me, was that I was about to be rear-ended by a drunk driver.
Unfortunately, there was no place to go. All the lanes to my right were filled with commuters. To my left were the oncoming lanes of outbound traffic. I dare not slow down, because I’ll be bumped for sure, so I’ll speed up. And as I did, guess what? A red light loomed up ahead. I had no choice but to brake and keep one eye on the mirror, and hope for the best.
Did you know that the Lord’s Prayer can be said in eight seconds?
About to be hit by a drunk driver. About to be messed up by someone driving under the influence, as they say. But, fortunately, the happy wanderer saw the red light too and squealed to a stop, still straddling two lanes, but at least nothing got hit.
And I decided, as drivers do, to send a message. I decided just to stare at this person through my rear-view mirror and send a message of disapproval. How dare you get out here on the street, driving under the influence? How many have you had anyway? Of course I didn’t say these things; I just thought them and sort of did a mental telepathy message back there.
And then I saw the driver: she (and some of you just knew it was going to be a she, didn’t you?) …she could be seen mouthing something, saying something. Was she talking back to me? No, it seemed to be a rhythmic pattern. I saw her hands go up, fingers popping, and for the first time I heard something too, something like boom-boom-chitty-boom-boom-chitty-boom-boom-boom-blatt!
And what I discovered was that this driver was not driving under the influence of alcohol; she was driving under the influence of progressive jazz!
She was not disoriented by the smell of booze but by the sound of music.
She was not impaired by the fruit of the vine, but by the beat of the drum.
More to the point, she was feeling good, real good. Riding along, singing to herself, just plain happy. When I looked in that mirror and saw her face, I saw a very happy face. I did not see the bleary-eyed, distorted face of a drunkard. I did not see the bland, blank stare of someone who has been in the cups too long. I saw a happy person, enjoying that music, and absolutely unaware of anything else going on around her.
Feeling good. She was driving under the influence, not of an abused substance, but of a misdirected set of feelings. Feeling good, so good that she was oblivious to her responsibility. So good that she could not control her vehicle properly. Feeling so good that she could not handle her responsibilities.
And therein I found a parable. Therein a spiritual issue for us.
The issue is, "can you feel good and still move forward purposefully and responsibly with your life?"
The issue is, "can you get inspired and excited, spiritually revved up, feeling great, and can you use that as energy for your life, or will it distract you? Will it keep you from living responsibly?"
In recent weeks I have heard a good many of you say that when worship is over here you feel good. You have told me that we have had some high moments of inspiration in this very room. And at one level, of course I’m pleased about that. Of course I’m excited about that. We want that. We enjoy that.