Lower Still

IMG_0489I am 3 weeks into my residency here at the Austin Stone, and it has been filled with nothing but opportunities to serve in some not so awe-striking, attractive ways that you might have expected. Before beginning residency, I had never put out so many chairs in a day or piled up so many stacks of chairs in 10 minutes as I have over the past few weeks. I have learned some new techniques for spacing chairs and efficiently finding ways to safely but quickly put together a full 4×5 panel sized stage. It may sound like I’m complaining, but let me say that it has been such an amazing experience for me both practically and spiritually.

If you want to see a short snapshot of what it looks like, watch this time-lapse video below:

Have you ever wondered why certain instruments are placed where they are on the stage, or has that ever even crossed your mind? Have you walked around the room during a service and wondered why the sound was engineered to sound the way it does at certain parts of the room? Do you ever think that there is a degree of excellence in the smallest areas of attention to everything that is done leading up to Sundays? Have you noticed how all of the chairs are spaced a specific width apart from one another, or how the stage is always perfectly aligned in the middle with the subs and are all intentionally spaced where they are for a reason? I know it’s never crossed my mind to consider or think about. Honestly, I’ve just never really cared.

For me, the crazy thing is that each of these small moving parts are done to such an extent of excellence that we never notice them because they never become a distraction.  Every small part matters. Whether it seems invaluable or pointless. We have to do everything with excellence for and with a purpose when it comes to leading and serving God’s people. It’s not because we want recognition from others. No, the reason we are called to strive to serve our church with excellence is the same reason why we are redeemed by His blood, the same reason that we are forgiven and continually sanctified. It is all because of the same hope that we receive because of Jesus. People come in to church, some for maybe the first time ever, needing to hear the story of how Jesus has saved His people and made them new, that there is a hope and light stronger than any darkness or sin by which we are covered and called into. This message has to be handled and communicated with such precision and care to be shared with our people on Sunday mornings. It is the Gospel.

I have been learning so much about leadership from the hearts of those who go unseen for their sacrificial work on Saturday evenings. Who would want to give up their weekend afternoons to clear classrooms and set up pipes and drapes?! These people volunteer their time and devote their hearts to setting up Saturday afternoons and tearing down Sunday nights. How can I tell? I see it in each of their smiles when they are asked to clear a whole room of desks by themselves. I see it in the community of fellowship when a stage is getting put together by two guy who are talking about a terrible date one of them recently had or overwhelming family issues. I’ve been led by some of the most impactful leaders over the past few weeks here, and it hasn’t been the guy on stage with a mic or the super talented singer with the nice Martin guitar. Jesus has revealed and most clearly reflected Himself to me through the life of leaders sacrificing their weekends to invest and train the body of Christ to serve the Church in ways that our society and culture deem not so attractive. It’s easy for me to often forget that when Jesus walked the earth he never tried nor desired to climb up the social ladder. If anything, Jesus kept going further and further down the ladder by serving the tax collectors and prostitutes and washing the feet of those whom he created. As the Church we are called to do the same. We are called to serve our brothers, sisters, and the church in whatever context is necessary, both spiritually and practically. My hope is that by reading this you consider the truth of the Gospel through the lens of servanthood and how we, just like Christ, are called to serve everyone. I will end with this. There is a song by a band called My Epic that I feel gets to the heart of why and how low Jesus kept going down the ladder to ultimately serve the Father’s will and the people he would eventually die for: you and me.

Look, he’s covered in dirt
The blood of his mother has mixed with the Earth
and she’s just a child who’s throbbing in pain
from the terror of birth by the light of a cave

now they’ve laid that small baby
where creatures come eat
like a meal for the swine who have no clue that he
is still holding together the world that they see
they don’t know just how low he has to go
Lower still

Look now he’s kneeling he’s washin’ their feet
though they’re all filthy fishermen, traitors and theives
now he’s pouring his heart out and they’re fallin’ asleep
but he has to go lower still

there is greater love to show
hands to the plow
further down now
blood must flow

all these steps are personal
all his shame is ransom
oh do you see, do you see just how low, he has come
do you see it now?
no one takes from him
what he freely gives away

beat in his face
tear the skin off his back
Lower still, lower still
strip off his clothes
make him crawl through the streets
Lower still, lower still
hang him like meat
on a criminal’s tree
Lower still, lower still
bury his corpse in the Earth
like a seed, like a seed, like a seed
Lower still, lower still

Lower still, lower still…

The Earth explodes
she cannot hold him!
And all therein is placed beneath Him
and death itself no longer reigns
it cannot keep the ones he gave himself to save
and as the universe shatters the darkness disolves
he alone will be honored
we will bathe in his splendor
as all heads bow lower still
all heads bow lower still

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