(Image courtesy of matome.naver.jp)
It is all too easy to become comfortable as a Christian. After all, Jesus said that he would send the Holy Spirit to be of comfort to us, and it is. The acknowledged presence of God and the relationship born of faith provide us with this sense of peace, and in that we can find this safety that enfolds us. So how does God shake things up and keep us growing ever more in our faith? Since my theology of a God of grace precludes me from believing that God sends pain and suffering upon us, I am left with thinking that God transforms things and experiences around us to enable God to speak to us in new ways. One of the most consistent places for God to do just this is worship.
Worship is where the people of God come to give their thanks and praise. It is one of the means of grace through which God conveys God’s love and redemption of us in Christ Jesus. It is where the Body of Christ gathers to be manifest, edified, and equipped to continue the ministry and mission of his Church. It is where we confess our sins before God and one another to be reconciled to each other. For those who go to church to worship regularly, this can start to feel rote even stale over time. While it is always our responsibility first and foremost to enter into worship with gratitude and openness to hear and see God in new ways that day, we are all aware that keeping the excitement in our worship is neither easy nor always the reality. Yet, what if our worship was the place where we could encounter God in a radially different way? What if we entered into that sacred space at the appointed hour only to discover something we had never encountered before, some new facet of our Lord? Worship provides this opportunity in a way that no other time or place can. When the people of God, created by the Father, called by the Son, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, gather in one place for the sole purpose of worshiping God, then anything and everything can happen. The tragedy is that we have become so used to worship that we can forget to expect that such a miraculous encounter can and should occur. We almost issue challenge to the clergy and laity that lead us in worship to move us, find new ways of making us feel, but that is a moot point if we do not come intentionally seeking to take part in that unveiling of God.
Each and every Sunday in worship, God seeks to reach out and touch in us unexpected ways. No matter how long we have been in the Church and at worship, even if it has been our whole lives, there is always something new God can say or do that will rock our world. God chooses to do this in worship, provided we are willing to be open and receptive to it. When we get too comfortable and stop seeking these radical encounters with God, then our worship feels stale, even to us. Our worship becomes a place of motion rather than movement of the Spirit. We do not respond to it here and now, so much as recall what we are supposed to do, but even that is always with an eye on the past, what was done and said. We serve the God who was, is, and ever shall be. God is doing new things now, making all things new today, and that must include our worship as well. Are we actively seeking to make our worship new? I am not talking about throwing out all the tradition and historical practice, liturgy, format, and music, but looking at how God desires to invigorate it in new ways this day so that we, in turn, can be invigorated, too? We get so comfortable in Christianity over the course of the long run, that we can forget what it was like to be shaken loose from our blindness to see God like it was the first time. We must endeavor to resurrect that mindset and that willingness so that we can have the openness to see what God is doing new now, and then, edified by the worship of our God, we can go back out into the world to proclaim God’s Gospel and glory in new ways to reach a new people and bring about new growth in the ultimate transformation of the world.