The last two Sunday mornings a different person in our church has asked me prior to worship what was going to said about the Middle East (last Sunday) and what was going to said about Michael Brown (today). Both those people approaching me before service have become reminders for me of several things I want to list in order to remember. I’m grateful for Lara and Jeremy and my reflections are out of gratitude for them:
- The people of God (aka, the church) know what to say in worship. The content of our faith, and the content of our liturgy, has never solely come from the recognized leaders of the faith. I am comforted by this. As the pastor, I’m not the only person with a facility for words about God in relation to human beings and human life. God has gifted the people with the people. And those lovely people have things to say about the world. Pradeep reminded me of this even before Lara greeted me last week.
- What we do in worship is important for when we’re not in worship. This comes out of something my member and friend, Nate, said. Our worship connects to the lives we live when we’re not gathered with God’s people. As James Smith says, our worship ends in mission. The cyclic nature of mission, though, is that mission continues to feed and instruct our worship. We live between Sundays, worshiping God and then, in a thousand ways, living for God.
- Our worship has to echo or reflect something about the world after the benediction. If there is no connection, no reflection, then there is no real tangible reason for being a church that God continually sends into the world. The end of a worship service is a recommissioning for all involved. When we return the following week, we return with all that’s happened since last Sunday and we bring those events, those sorrows and joys, with us as worship, hear, and respond with others gathered.
- The prayers of God’s people are filled with news. Daily news. The news and the headlines of our times should become the words we pray, fill our throats when we sing about God’s future, and inspire us to live Spirit-empowered lives now. The fact is our songs are all out-of-date. They are not necessarily old though. Our hymns and choruses are out of date in the sense that they anticipate a future that hasn’t fully come. Those words match with the images of black hands uplifted before police holding guns–reminders from the 50s and 60s in the present–and they pull our hands upward in the direction of a God whose heart is still broken.
- Our words are the words of the oppressed, the marginalized, the disinherited, and the over-looked. The truth of the disinherited is that they feel unheard and cast aside. The truth of any good Christian faith is wrapped in the power of a God who reclaims, always holds close, and never abandons. In other words, Christianity is an answer to the state of oppression, marginalization, and disinheritance. That faith is a bottom-up reiteration of a deadly event where God abandoned God, upsetting all of created history and all of created future, and where God reset all things to move creation toward a better future.
- The hope of the church has to be proclaimed as an answer. The hope of the world is in Christ; this is the news of the Christian faith, and that news is a long-told story. When we proclaim the gospel in the midst of the world–be that gospel proclaimed in explicit or implicit ways, be it seen and experienced in the church’s rituals, be it lived in our lives–we are following Jesus who has always entered into our experience, checked our experience with God’s message for our time, and pointed us toward the hope of the ages.
Thank you Nate, Pradeep, Lara, and Jeremy. You’ve led our church these weeks, even if you haven’t picked up the microphone. Your leadership and service has filled me with thanksgiving.