Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Energized   Leave a comment

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Have you participated in an event which causes you to feel energized by the end?  Recently I have been attending worship at a local church where this feeling occurs every time.  I enjoy the worship experience and find a great connection with the Spirit each time I attend.  There is a genuine sense of love and a high level of energy.  People of all ages gather and truly worship because they feel a connection.  The focus is on worshiping the Lord.

Another truly wonderful aspect is that I look forward to going to worship.  I know that no matter how challenging my week has been, I have an opportunity to focus on my faith and find fellowship.  The people whom I am with provide energy for me.  They share with one another and support one another in an uplifting manner.

Unfortunately, I am sure all of us have been in situations within the church where the opposite occurs.  I have attended worship in some churches where I walk away feeling drained.  The atmosphere, the worship style, and the people’s attitude extracts energy.  This has nothing to do with the style of music, the volume of music, the pastor’s style, or how liturgical the worship.  It is all about the feeling and attitude of those who are worshiping.

My hope for all of you are that you have the opportunity to participate in an event that provides energy to you.  I know that I am grateful to find this church and this worship experience.

A Party   2 comments

English: .

English: . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What would happen if worship was like a party?  This question came into my mind as I was reading some Twitter posts.  This one was posted:

grammercie ‏@grammercie

Catholic church sign listed mass times. And then it said “Come party with us.” except it actually said “pray”. Hmm.

It made me really stop and consider the invitation to come party with us.  Why can’t worship be like a party?  I know for many years we have viewed worship in the Church as a reverent event.  But let’s pause and think a while about why we worship in the Christian Church and especially throw in  their the meaning of Communion (Holy Eucharist, Celebration of the Last Supper, or whatever language we attach to the sacrament).  When we stop and realize that one of the most significant event for Christians is the death on a cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should definitely be having an attitude of celebration.

Worship should be a celebration that recognizes that since Jesus died on the cross, we are released from the burden and the punishment of our sins.  We are allowed to soar when before we could only crawl under the weight of our sins.  Worship should be a celebration that recognizes that because God raised Jesus from the grave through the power of the Holy Spirit and we are grafted into Jesus by our belief in him, we have been raised from the grave even before we take our last breath on this side of death.  Worship should be a celebration because of God creating us and all that is in the known universe and beyond.  Worship should be a celebration because God continues to sustain us, guide us, encourage us, redirect us.  WORSHIP SHOULD BE A CELEBRATION!!!!

So why can’t worship be more like a party than a theological lecture at a university?  I think that it is only because we, humans, choose to not allow it to be.  I think it would be a lot easier for us to invite others if we could say:  “Come party with us,” instead of “Come to church with us.”



Beyond Rituals   6 comments

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

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Today is Ash Wednesday.  It is the day in the Christian calendar that marks the starting point of the 40 days of Lent (don’t count Sundays) that lead up to Easter.  This is a day that often confused me when I was growing up and the one day of the year that I wished my family were members of the Roman Catholic Church.  Let me explain a little about that last statement before I talk more about rituals.

In the small community in which I grew up, my family were members of the Presbyterian Church.  At that time, many Presbyterians did not lift up Lent and/or Ash Wednesday very much.  We did not attend worship on Ash Wednesday.  However, my classmates who were members of the Roman Catholic Church definitely did attend Mass on that day.  Mass was held during the school day and since the church was only a block away from the school, they would leave school, attend Mass, and then come back to school with something black smeared on their foreheads.  I never could figure out why there was something black smeared on their foreheads but no one wanted to look stupid so no one ever asked.  I was very jealous that they were able to leave school, even if it was to attend a church service.  So I was confused about this Holy Day that they called Ash Wednesday and on which they had something smeared on their forehead.  But I was also jealous.

Until I became an adult, that was my understanding of Ash Wednesday and the rituals in connection with the day.  After I graduated high school and attended a Roman Catholic college for my freshman year, I gained a much deeper understanding of Ash Wednesday.  I now know that the black that is smeared on people’s foreheads on this day is ash produced by the burning of palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.  I know that the purpose of this is to remind us of our mortality and sinfulness which Jesus would overcome in his death on a cross and his resurrection.  I know that Lent is a time for reflection on our need of Christ and to evaluate and strengthen our spiritual disciplines to enrich our relationship with God.  I know that as part of that reflection and strengthening of spiritual disciplines, some individuals choose to “give up” something for the period of Lent to increase their focus on the Lord.  I know all of these things but I still am haunted by the question. . . “WHY?”

In my years as a believer, I have experienced and learned many rituals in the Church.  I am capable of doing “High Church” as well as any other believer.  The issue that I have grown to have is that if a ritual is nothing more than that, why do we continue to do it.  This is not to question the value of any specific ritual.  Instead, I am questioning if the ritual has meaning for the individuals who are participating in it.  If the ritual does indeed have meaning, then continue to do it.  However, I would argue that if the ritual does not have meaning to the individual, a person has two options to consider.  The first option is to spend time researching and understanding the background and original purpose of the ritual.  If after doing the research the individual finds a new connection to the meaning and it benefits their connection with the Lord, then continue to do so.  The second option is to discontinue participating in the ritual.  In either case, it is the responsibility of the individual to seek  out meaning in what they are doing.

So as I, along with many others, observe tonight the rituals associated with Ash Wednesday, I encourage all of you to go beyond the rituals and find meaning.  It is in meaning that we can strengthen our relationship with the Lord.

Authentic Worship   4 comments

worshipIn my devotional reading this morning, I read John 4:16-26 in Eugene Petersen’s The MessageThis passage is part of the discussion that Jesus is having with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  They are talking about the right place to worship God.  Jesus says to the woman:

“Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

This caused me to think about how I present myself in worship.  I don’t think that I am very different from most individuals who have grown up in the church.  I have learned the rules about behavior and what is acceptable and what is not.  I remember my mother reinforcing those rules if I happened to forget them on occasion.  But I am not sure that I ever learned to be authentic in my worship.

Jesus tells the woman that what God is seeking is those individuals “who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.”  To me that is calling me to be authentically myself when I am engaged in the worship of my Lord.  That is where the conflict can arise for me.  I know the “proper way to worship” that I was taught growing up in a small, rural, mainline denomination church.  But I also know that I never felt very exposed to the possibility that the Spirit may be moving through our worship and that may move us to be emotional, to be energetic, to show acts of humility, or any other expressive forms of worship.  Yet, at various times in worship, I feel moved to express what I sense the Spirit prompting inside of me.  So by stifling those expressions, am I failing to be authentic?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the nurturing, love, guidance and opportunities that I was given in my childhood church and the many churches that I have been blessed to be a part of.  My faith and my response to the Lord were directly influenced by those witnesses in each of the congregations.  I am part of a great heritage that has helped shaped who I am. 

My challenge this morning as I read Jesus’ words was to understand what it means to be authentic in worship.  Beyond the idea of authentically expressing what the Spirit is doing in and through me, I think that there is also the reality of coming as who I truly am and not the image that I have created to fit the norms of the worship setting.  The truth is that I am a perpetual sinner in need of the continued grace of God.  I am not perfect in the slightest way.  That being said, I am also the forgiven child of God.  So while it is right for me to approach worship as a humbled person because of my sin and my need of grace, it is also right for me to approach worship with great joy due to the grace and forgiveness that is contained in my identity as a child of God.

I am sure there are other aspects of authentic worship that I need to continue to explore.  This is just where the ball has begun rolling this morning.  I invite others to share comments about authentic worship and the words Jesus said to the Samaritan woman.