Monday, October 19, 2015

What Makes Worship Good?

I don't know if it is just my particular neurosis, or if others share it, but I spend at least some part of every Saturday feeling unsettled.  I am thinking about Sunday worship, not only my words,  but the flow of the liturgy, how it all goes together, how it will be when we come together.  I pray over what I have prepared, but wonder about it.  Even if my sermon is all finished on Friday and my Saturday is relatively free, I still feel a little unsettled, thinking about it.

So, Sunday after church, and after the new member class, I thought:

Worship was good.

Just three words, nothing earth-shaking, no angel-choirs or trumpets, no big surprises.  But it made me wonder why I thought so.  What makes worship good?

It may be different for you, but here is what it was for me:

1.  There were generations present in church.  There was the college student and her mom, the two young girls in the front row.  There was a grandfather and his two grandchildren (and their parents too).    There was the matriarch of the church and one of our pre-school students.   There was an engaged couple, single parents, empty-nesters.  There were prospective members and visitors, too.  To me, it is not how many people are in church, but whether there are generations present that makes a difference.  It was enough.  It was good.

2.  I heard people singing together.  It might have been a hymn, or maybe it was a song, but I could hear the people singing out, and that made worship good.  It was a hymn they knew, believed, a song that made them want to sing at the top of their lungs.   Singing is at the heart of communal worship for me.  Sometimes, I will confess, it seems like we are losing the ability to sing together.  We don't know the same songs any more.  We don't all know the beat.  On Sunday, I heard my community singing.  And it was very good.

3.  I heard someone speak from the heart.  It was the beginning of our stewardship emphasis, and one of our members spoke at both services about her commitment to her congregation, and, more than that, about her love for her Lord.  She spoke her own words.  No one gave them to her.  She spoke about the places she services, and why.  She spoke about the grace that makes her open her hands to give.  And it was good.

4.  The Holy Spirit was there.  Every week, this is true, whether I feel it or not.  The Holy Spirit comes with each Spirit-filled child of God present.  I have an old CD by the Blind Boys of Alabama.  The title is "I Brought Him With Me."  In other words, I didn't come here to find God -- I brought God here with me, and because of that, this place is filled with the spirit of God.  The church is holy because God's holy people, saints and sinners, are present.

Other things make worship good for me as well, I'll admit:  when a line of a song moves me to tears, when I see someone I haven't seen in a long time, when we take a risk together, do something new, learn a new gesture, ask a question.  These things make worship good for me.  They make me think:  we are learning to trust God more, and trust each other.

What makes worship 'good' for you?

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