Tumbling in the Sand
The texts, moved from Sunday, July 1, 2012 to Sunday, June 24, 2012: Lamentations 3:22–33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7–15; and Mark 5:21–43
“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” -Lamentations 3:25-26
“You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever. “-Psalm 30:11-12
It seems to me that worship style comes up an awful lot as a point of argument in faith communities everywhere. Everything— the music, movement, the worship space arrangement, the people participating, the volume, the parts of the liturgy included, the way the pastor preaches, ad infinitum—gets included in these discussions that can turn from a congenial conversation into an all out fight.
Let me just say: these arguments and conversations are really good things. We need to talk about this stuff! We need to be concerned with how worship reflects ourselves, the community, and the whole body of Christ. We also need to be concerned with how worship around the table—around Communion—feeds us so that we can go out and serve in the world.
Inevitably, though, such conversations lead to disagreement and conflict. The reasons for this are many, but I think the primary reason is that we tend to think that there is one right way to do it and only one right way. Interestingly, that one right way tends to be our way…
But, I don’t think that there is one right way to worship. I think that worship is diverse and multi-faceted. Just like these two texts suggest: worship is everything from silence to dancing, from wailing to singing, from waiting to rejoicing. And we need that full spectrum that worship is. I think that when we try to narrow worship down to one right way, we miss the depth and beauty and struggle that worship actually is.
Yes, I said struggle.
You see, I think that worship is supposed to challenge us. It is supposed to take us out of our comfort zone and challenge us to wait quietly for God. It is supposed to lead us out of our safe spaces so that we may dance in the joy of God. It is supposed to call us out of our numbing habits so that we might be free to let our heart sing without ceasing. It is supposed to challenge us, to stretch us, so that we might grow in faith and be surprised at God and the way that God shows up. Because—as we’ve learned through the cross—God shows up where we least expect God to be.
There truly is only one way to worship: with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind! It’s so important to learn to recognize the power in all forms of worship, seeing God coming to us as we do our best, even though always coming up short, as we praise God.
I’m as big a fan of the high church smells and bells as you’ll find, but this past weekend while serving as chaplain for the NE Pennsylvania Synod youth assembly, I experienced something just as powerful although very different. We worshiped at different stations in an Allentown park: at (and in) the creek for a reminder of baptism, under the shelter of majestic trees as we heard the word, and in the center of a beautiful rose garden as we received the Lord’s Supper. Not the usual worship, but there I was with tears in my eyes seeing God’s beauty reflected in the beautiful meal, Jesus himself in, with, and under the bread and wine.
We did indeed struggle, we were challenged. But hearts did sing, people did dance. God came to us in the midst of the city. And we will never be the same. That’s the power of authentic worship.
So maybe worship should lead us to find God in new places, new hymns, new forms of proclamation. And then along the way, we might just start seeing God at new times, well beyond the confines of a Sunday morning.
Thanks for sharing this Lena! It’s something we ALL need to keep in mind.
Doug, I’ve been meaning to get back to you about this! Thank you for your thoughts: you certainly give a critical counter-point to my assertion that there isn’t a single right way to worship, there is! But that single right way will manifest itself in innumerable ways, won’t it!
I love the way that struggle can be joyful. I think that sometimes we think struggle is an all bad thing, but I think about times I’ve been caught up in horse-play with someone or I’ve been scaling some nearly vertical assent while I’ve been hiking and while those were certainly struggles, I loved (and hated) every minute of it! I really didn’t mean to suggest that worship should be a painful experience all of the time…and I’m glad your reflections help to temper that. It sounds like an incredible experience of worship for both you and the youth you were leading!