Monday, 27 February 2012

Life is a Stage

I love going to watch shows in the West end of London. They bring magic into our lives and they stir up emotion as they take us on a journey into another world for a few hours. The stage is filled with actors, dancers and singers each doing their part to make the show complete. Each knows their place. They know where to stand: what to say or sing: what to dance. They come as individuals, with all their preparation and practice, and they follow the director who knows exactly what to do to make the show beautiful. The stage is where it happens but before the cast have a real audience they do rehearsal after rehearsal in front of the director. For those few nights he is the audience. It is only his opinion that matters. Then, others come and watch, and enjoy, and learn, and get inspired.

Life is our stage. God is our director. He knows where we need to stand, he knows how to teach us what to say or sing or how to dance. We turn up at the theatre of our lives, as we are, a bit broken, not looking our best, sometimes not ready for a show and He says, “Good I’m glad you’re here, I’ll show you to your place.” He takes us as we are and looks at us as being full of promise and potential. He knows our potential even if we don’t, and He knows how to get us there if we are able to say, “I’m here and I’m available. Show me what you want me to do.” It is His opinion that matters most.

If you are part of a cast, I would imagine it would be so encouraging and inspiring to see a real pro: someone who has gone before you, someone who has done it well. So imagine, God, the director, has brought you to the stage and you are standing in front of him thinking “I don’t know how to do this!” and He says, “I’d like to introduce you to someone. He is the best example that you could ever see. He has done it all before and He did it perfectly.” I personally would feel that I had someone to follow. I was not alone and I didn’t have to be scared. This man knew how to do it and he was there as my guide and mentor. He wouldn’t let me fail.

Just pause a moment.

Jesus is a perfect example of how to do life.

He is our mentor and guide.

We read about Jesus in the Gospels. We find out about how he did life. He is the ultimate teacher, so study his life and teachings. Study who he was on earth and you will find who He remains to be today. Study how he took His place on the stage of His life and followed the same director as we have now. God lead him through His time on earth as He will lead us through each scene and each act of our own lives.

Let’s go back to the stage for a moment. We are all standing as we are, waiting for direction from the director, watching a perfect example and we hear music. This music is powerful. It carries to every part of the stage and beyond. This music moves you and stirs something inside your soul and you cannot stand anymore. You have to kneel. Your heart hears the melody of heaven. Down in the pit in front of the stage is the orchestra being lead by the world’s greatest Musical director. Every note that is played is for the pleasure of the Director. Gradually you hear harmonies filling the space from all around you. The musical director is conducting them and stirring them up inside and you begin to join them. You are joined by all the angelic hosts of Heaven and the sound is beautiful. It is beyond the beauty of this world. It takes us into another world, a place where we don’t see how broken we are anymore, we see light in the darkness, we see a being who is worthy of all our praise and all our adoratiion and we fall in love with Him. We join this song and the song remains the same for all eternity: Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord God Almighty.

The Holy Spirit is our MD. He stirs us to worship. He provokes us to sing songs of praise and adoration to our Director and Mentor. He guides us into harmonies where we lift our eyes beyond our circumstances and we sing “Holy! Holy! Holy!” He is holy. He is entitled to our worship. He is pure and sacred and before the show starts we must worship Him. Not because He is insecure, He doesn’t need us to tell Him how great He is to make himself feel better, but because He is worthy of it. He deserves it.

Worship is the soundtrack of our lives. C. S Lewis says, “Worship is inner health made audible”. A show would not be as captivating without music, but worship is not just the music. I believe there is power in singing, but I also believe that as a soundtrack worship is not just songs. When we say audible it means we can hear it, but also metaphorically we can say ‘what does your life sound like?’ ‘Does the sound go beyond the stage of our lives and spill out on to others?” 

1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. This verse is often read at a marriage ceremony and it always comes to mind when we think about love, but I think it can be easy to brush over the noisy gong or the clanging cymbal part? What would that sound like?

I am a singer and my husband is a drummer. If I were to bring my worship to God and before a congregation with an acapella version of ‘Here is love vast as the ocean’. The congregation might be able to meditate on the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit might move as I sing, but imagine that half way through the song Rick decided to start banging his cymbals as loudly as he could over the top of my song. It would be offensive! Not only to our ears but to our souls and more importantly to the Holy Spirit who was trying to work through the song.

That is the sound of the clanging cymbal. It is offensive. If I have got a beautiful song to sing on stage and I get off the stage and talk about someone behind their back the song is no longer beautiful. This sound of the clanging cymbal is what happens if in our daily life we don’t buy food for the homeless; we don’t care for those that are vulnerable; we don’t stand up for justice and we don’t speak well of those around us. The high street is our stage, our work place is our stage: life is our stage. Our place will not be found on a stage that seeks to raise us up above others: our place is to be is found on the stage that puts others first and makes Jesus famous.  

When we find worship as the soundtrack of our lives we can dance to it. We can sing songs of praise and adoration even when life is hard. We look to our mentor and sometimes He will take us in his arms and say, “Today I will dance with you. Your feet are not in sync with mine, let me show you again” or “I’ll sing for you today because I know that it is hard to, I’ll remind you how it’s done”. Romans 8:26 in the NRSV says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”. That is an amazing verse. When we can’t do it, when we have forgotten the steps or haven’t even learnt them yet He prays on our behalf. Have you forgotten the steps? Have you forgotten the words? Go back and start with “Holy”. Go back to adoring God and sing “Holy” because He is.

Just remember again that God is the director. He knows our promise and potential. Seek him for direction, but look also to the fact that he takes us as we are. No costumes. No make-up: as we are. We don’t have to try to be anything but ourselves. We don’t have to dress up or pretend to be better than we are. He looks and says, “Good I’m glad you’re here. I’m going to use you just as you are and I will make this show beautiful, if you let me.” Look to Jesus our mentor. Learn how He did it. Study his movements. Find your place by trying to be like him. Listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit our musical director and let the sound that comes from your stage ring out across the world, stirring others to join you as you worship in song and action.

In the theatre there is an audience. In this theatre we have an audience full of saints cheering us on, saying, “go on!” “You can do it!” “We believe in you”. In this audience is Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Noah, Jacob, Hannah, Joseph, Mary, David and Ezekiel… the list goes on. These are heroes of our faith and they have done it before and at the end of our lives there will be an applause from heaven because we saw life as our stage. We saw what could happen when we follow God as our director and we came as we were and asked God to use us to make something beautiful.

How we do life matters. Play your part, without costumes and make-up, just as you are and let’s make our director famous. Life is a stage: The show is what you make it.

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