Octopus and Southern Gospel

Published 11:47 am Friday, August 16, 2013

by Brandon Robbins

My wife, LeeAnn, and I love trying new foods!

Now, growing up, this was not always the case. I grew up in a house where it seemed that we had a rotating menu that recycled about every two weeks. Monday was grilled chicken, Tuesday was salmon, Wednesday was pork chops, etc., etc. Sometimes, we would go wild and branch out by having fajitas (which, for me, was really just seasoned chicken with cheese on a tortilla).

Since getting married, though, it is rare if I even eat the same food twice in two months. If I had to guess, I would assume that the reason for this is a simple desire to experience life. My wife and I love trying new things. We truly believe that there are so many good things to enjoy in this world, why waste time eating the same thing over and over again (unless, of course, it’s Cabot’s Private Reserve Cheddar Cheese, and then it’s really a no-brainer).

Our desire to try new things has even led us to try some strange and exotic foods. A few months ago, LeeAnn and I went to a Spanish-themed dinner to celebrate our anniversary. It was an amazing menu, complete with Spanish-style soup, roast lamb and even octopus!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Octopus? Who eats octopus? Why would anyone serve octopus? Which is exactly what I was thinking when I sat down for the meal.

In fact, while we were eating, we were fortunate enough to sit across from a woman who had grown up in Spain and later moved to America. So, as that course was laid out before us, I took the opportunity to ask her: “Can you tell me the truth: do you all really eat octopus in Spain?” Her answer was an emphatic “Yes!” According to her, octopus is a normal part of the Spanish diet.

This totally caught me by surprise. I remember telling her that it seemed so strange to me. I know it sounds naive, but octopus is such a foreign food in the diet of most Americans, it’s hard to imagine anyone eating it.

She told me that she felt the same way when she moved to America – except about our food. She said there were, in fact, several foods she encountered in America that she was quite afraid to eat. This piqued my curiosity. “Like what,” I asked. And do you know what she said? Meatloaf!

Now, when you think about it, meatloaf does seem like a strange name for a food – not really all that appealing to the ear unless you grew up with it. Yet, when it has been a part of our diet since a young age, it’s all that we know. It’s what we crave. It’s what feels safe.

So, it would only make sense to believe that the same should be true about foods that others grew up with that we’ve never tasted. If it was good enough for them to eat all their lives, could it really be all that bad for us? Perhaps we’ve been missing out on something great and simply never realized it?

The same thing is true when it comes to worship in our churches. For many of us, we grew up with one style of worship, one way of doing things. It is what we know, what we’re comfortable with. And often, when we see others worship, if their style is different, we consider it to be strange. In some cases, we would even claim that it is wrong.

But what does it say that none of us worship like Jesus did? Or even like the early Christians did?

In the very early days of the church, there were no pews, no organs. They didn’t use guitars, or golden offering plates. In the early days, they didn’t even have the New Testament. But they still worshipped Jesus!

These things are all instruments and practices that developed over time. They arose within a particular context to meet the needs of people living at that time. And with each new generation, people have had to make tough decisions about whether to keep the old, embrace the present or adopt the new.

What I think is so amazing about this, though, is that both old and new methods still have the ability to change lives. There is something about hearing a 200-year-old song like “Amazing Grace” played on a pipe organ that can still touch the heart and stir the soul. And there are new songs like “How Great Is Our God” that have helped an entirely new generation of people to understand the salvation that Jesus is offering.

Indeed, there is so much to enjoy and embrace when it comes to worshipping God, it is almost as if we are cheating ourselves out of so many wonderful experiences by narrowly accepting only a few. Even if it seems strange at first, it’s at least worth giving the Holy Spirit a chance to move in a new way.

That’s why, at Courtland United Methodist Church, we try to find a variety of ways to connect with people of all ages in all generations. In fact, this coming Sunday, we will have an entirely unique worship experience: Southern Gospel. The Pathfinders, a North Carolina musical trio, will be leading us in worship at 11 a.m. Then, following the service, there will be a covered-dish luncheon leading up to their concert at 1 p.m. It promises to be an exciting day filled with great music, delicious food, and powerful worship.

So, this week, whether you attend our church or another, consider opening yourself up to something new. Challenge yourself to believe that, just like food, there is so much more that we can explore when it comes to worshipping God. And as you do these things, may you find that God is reaching you in new in deeper ways than ever before!