Sunday, June 03, 2012

Nervously Sufficient Worship: Reprise

Last night I wrote about feeling a bit nervous for leading worship this morning. Today I woke up feeling just fine and ready to go. I got to class, put the slides on the laptop, and all seemed well. After class, I connected everything up and turned on the projector. The image was horrifying. The screen was all wavy, like there was some interference somewhere. I tried a couple things real quick to reset it but to no avail. Any further diagnosis would require getting the ladder to reach the projector and there was no time. Quickly I swapped out a few songs that were only on the slides for ones that were in the book. I also had a medley that was no longer feasible. After some quick reworking all was set.

Things were not as I had wanted them to be, but all in all it was a wonderful service. The lesson was great and everything tied together nicely. And the things that made it wonderful could not be planned at all. Had I not been at peace with my effort it could have been a very stressful time.

I am not sure that God was trying to teach me any lessons but I will find one here anyway. It is not about me. It is not up to me.  I cannot rely on technology, planning, or my own efforts. I can plan and prepare, but when the time comes God will do what he will do. My goal should be to make sure I am with Him and open to the Spirit's leading. Semper Gumby. Always flexible.

Epilogue: After worship, while setting up for the potluck I was able to tinker with the projector enough to get it to reset and get back to normal operation.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Nervously Sufficient Worship

For some reason I am a bit nervous about worship tomorrow. I had a harder than usual time picking out songs that went with the lesson without giving everything a down in the dumps feeling.

This week I read an article from Jim Martin (habit #5) that made me realize that every attempt will not be a home run. Not ever service will be amazing. But whatever the feeling, God will use my effort for His purpose whether it is to humble me or to touch someone that I may not know of in a way I could never imagine.

Just now I stumbled across 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

God will make whatever I offer sufficient. God will make my ministry sufficient. God will make my worship sufficient. I will offer my best and let God do the rest.

Friday, June 01, 2012

On Worship: Community

Continuing on with with my thoughts on worship I want to examine yet another purpose behind our worship. In my post on lists, I talked about the 5 acts of worship. We concentrate on what we are doing in worship (specifically inside the "worship service") too much when we should be focusing on why we worship. As a quick review, the primary need our worship fills is to give glory to God, the Father, the Creator, the Sustainer of all things.
There are other needs that our worship fills within us, other reasons for our worship:

I recently heard the analogy of cross-shaped worship. The cross points both horizontally and vertically. Cross shaped worship involves us reaching up to God and reaching out to our neighbors. If we are neglecting any of these aspects of worship then we are not living up to our potential. As always there is grace overflowing in our weakness. Our relationship with our fellow man is so important that Jesus said we should delay our worship if we there is a conflict between us and another and go solve the problem (Matthew 5:21-24). Looking at the letter of 1 John, it seems as if every chapter stresses the importance of loving each other. It's a new command, it's an old command. Whatever era you are from, loving one another is vital to our Christian worship.

The church is about community. The reason God put us all together is to help each other and bear one another's burdens. Paul tells us to speak to one another in our songs, but we rarely do anything other than face forward. When I am leading worship, I really appreciate everyone singing toward me. It is a great encouragement. Now imagine if we all sang to each other.

When the believers in Corinth gathered for worship, they turned communion and potlucks into divisions. Paul did not chastise them for the acts themselves, it was their attitudes and lack of consideration for the body of Christ. "For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Corinthians 11:29). When I write about communion in a few posts, I want to go deeper into how the Lord's Supper can be more than just remembering Christ's body, but also remembering His body. It is something that is sorely lacking in our worship. As I hear about some other practices of serving the Lord's Supper there are some great ways to help emphasize the "one another" aspects of communion.

While worship is about community, it is not a gated community. We do not get to decide who we want in and who must stay out. In fact, it is our mission to bring in everyone from all over the world. On Jesus' last night before his crucifixion he prays a beautiful prayer. One of the few things he requests is for the unity of all believers, "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us" (John 17:20-23).  The reason he gives for this unity is "so that the world may believe that you have sent me." In addition to encouraging the church, our worship is to be a beacon for the unbelievers, those seeking a path to God. Paul writes that in the use of various gifts (tongues and prophecy specifically) some of them help believers and some help nonbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22-25). In our worship, we need to show the world something that they cannot get elsewhere, namely God. It is not about entertainment but about engagement. When they visit our assembly, do they get drawn closer to God? When they look at us as a community, do they see God? Do they see love? Do they see peace and joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit?

I ran across this blog the other day that is well worth a read: The Work of Worship by Mark Love. Mark  talks about the church functioning as the priesthood in the world. He writes that in our worship we often try to see God more clearly, but what we need more of is to see the world as God sees the world, to love as He loves. "In this way, worship rehearses us for our vocation in the world." Lots of things for me to think about there.

How do we accomplish this? Speaking to one another in worship. Inviting outsiders into our community. This worship cannot just be 1 hour a week or even 2 or 3 in the "assembly." Whenever someone says "Worship Service" it should be redundant. Of course worship is about service (Romans 12:1-2). If we are not in each other's lives, we cannot be united. If we are not serving each other, we cannot be united. If we are not united, the world will not believe. Just think how many more would believe if God's church stood united before the evils and apathies of the world.

Throughout scripture we find examples of worship that is pleasing to God and worship that is not pleasing. But amid all the ceremonies and rituals, when the people did not get the purpose right God was never pleased.

  • Jesus quoting Isaiah “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:6-9)
  • David from the depths of despair writes "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:16-17)

Lord, let us never forgot who we worship and why we worship. Help us to be the unified body that will bring the world to You.