I was struck by Dan’s statement that “for the early Church, as we noted earlier, worship was marked by words such as loyalty, allegiance and surrender, and by acts such as singing, reading the scriptures, eating together and taking the path of martyrdom.”
The holistic nature of this kind of worship seems so simple, yet ingrained in real life that it just makes sense. feel like I’ve talked to a lot of Christians who stop by a church service here & there, go to a small group not connected to any church service they attend, give only randomly to organizations that they have no real connection to, etc rather than actually be embedded in a local church where they can truly know people, be known & invest.
The very practical actually being part of a community, instead of subscribing to Christian culture and dropping in at events seems so key to worship as we think about it in this way. It seems like a key to actually experiencing the values Wilt talked later about (I’ve listed them below). Not to be harsh, but it just seems like one can only go so far in actually worshipping God without embedding themselves in community. I just don’t see how we can actually experience these things without the gathered worship & life with friends also on the same journey. Here are the values Dan mentioned:
1. Cultural Relevance
We are welcome to express worship in ways that are true to the culture of our age, while discerning and course-correcting their efficacy in building the spiritual health of the Church.
We are called to advance the call to worship in the world by living out the words of the songs we sing, the themes of the bread we break, and the overall message that is remembered and reclaimed in every worship setting.
We advance the idea that worship is not an activity only connected with an invisible world with which are attempting to “make contact.” Rather, worship is about doing justice, loving our neighbor and engaging with the vulnerable and broken in society with a view to bring new creation’s balm to its wounds.
In the form and content of our worship, we call worshipers to reverence, but not simply to a distant God who is somehow disconnected from their daily experience. We say “God is near, immanent, close and His Kingdom is within reach as we worship.” We refuse to distance ourselves from the God who has so powerfully drawn near to His human creation – we respond by drawing near to the God who draws near.
5. Incarnational Spirituality
We embody our spirituality, deciding and perpetuating the call to worship in spirit and in truth by living what we sing and say we believe. We are not people who worship by simply raising our hands and closing our eyes – we are committed to a spiritual formation into the likeness of Christ that evidences that we are actually following Jesus, and not just singing about the notion of doing so.
We feel no need to complicate every song and every expression of worship simply for the sake of some elusive language of “adding depth” or “engaging the intellect.” In the Benedictine tradition of lection divina, we often linger over important phrases and ideas, with simple words and melodies, to allow the worshiper to engage with deep theological truths that are intended to change their lives. Neither the intellectual complexity, nor the emotional simplicity, of a song is the issue for us. The issue is found in the asking of a simple question – “Is this moment an opportunity for God to transform our minds and hearts to fulfill His design for us, and to welcome us to a richer, deeper understanding of Himself?” Having asked that question, simplicity and complexity become options for our best creativity in expressing worship in all of its possible ways.
We recognize that covenant people of all tribes, nations and languages (and therefore music styles, ways of storytelling, symbolizing and engaging the human experience) are all invited to the feast of worship. For this reason, we do not define worship according to only one ethnicities expression. Rather, we embrace that colorful tapestry of worship life that flows from the Body of Christ across time and locale.
We value the unity that can only truly occur when we ultimately defer our lives to the God of all. Unity, because of God’s saving, restoring approach to us, is found among all peoples and denominations that value the part we have to play in God’s story. We are ambassadors of new creation and the coming Kingdom in the now, in the moment, and we rise together to sing, to pray, to act and to impact society from this common mission.
I’m glad that my experience with God & faith started when I was a little older (I wouldn’t say I was “raised” going to church.. but I was about 10 years old when my mom became a Christian, so I was still a kid). I think because she was naive about the whole thing & was only drawn there because of inner yearnings that they had to be something more; and because we ended up in a church community that expected an experience with God to be the norm within the theological context of the Kingdom of God,. a community-based faith where ecstatic spiritual meets mundane practical to make “faith” is the only thing I’ve really known firsthand. It’s living the last 20 years in that context where I can see God has formed me & molded me into who I am today.
Yay for “W”orship that leads us into a life where the spiritual & mundane meet, instead of pull apart like oil & water. After writing that last sentence, I realize that this is the tension of a life like that seems to be tied to the central message of the whole Story (e.g. new creation).