28 Jun Hearts Lifted in Joyful Worship
Worship is a funny thing. I spend a lot of my time—meaning, I spend a lot of my life—thinking about, praying about, planning, and executing worship for my church. Along with our church musicians, who are an absolute gift, not to mention a joy to work with, we spend hours coordinating music and liturgy with the scripture and sermon theme for each week. We approach the elements of worship not as disparate pieces, any of which can be stacked together in the Sunday bulletin, but as pieces of a whole. We want those pieces to all relate to one another, to all point in the same direction.
We work hard at worship, and hard work is important, but it can only take you so far. Because worship is all about God, that means that what we work with each week is essentially Divine Mystery. I can do my part, but if real worship is going to occur, it will be because God has been present and gotten involved in our Sunday service.
That’s why we have a standing prayer time each Sunday, half an hour before the service starts. Anyone and everyone is invited to gather in the church library and take part. We pray specifically for our worship that morning, asking God to be with us and to speak to us. We pray to prepare our hearts to listen. We pray for God’s Spirit to work in us and through us and to form us as the people of God. By the time we finish, I never fail to walk expectantly into the sanctuary. I am waiting and watching to see how God will interact with us, what God will say, how God will show up. I am always surprised by what God chooses to do.
That was especially true this past week. Some weeks are like that—a special “spark” gets ignited, and worship becomes “more than”: more than I planned, more than I could have dreamed or imagined possible, more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps it was partly because the day’s scripture was Exodus 3, the story of Moses meeting God at the burning bush, which is one of the most awesome stories ever. It’s a story that reminds us of God’s holiness, as Moses removed his shoes out of reverence for being in God’s presence. It reminds us that God hears and cares deeply about the suffering of the world. And, it reminds us that God “calls” each one of us, meaning that we have a role to play in God’s plans to heal and redeem the world. It is a rich and potent text, and I felt like God was as real to us as God had been to Moses at the bush.
But, I think our closing hymn had a lot to do with our worship experience on Sunday, as well. Music is powerful, and this song invited us to make a personal response to God’s calling to be people of faith. Some in our congregation were singing with all the gusto their hearts and lungs could produce. Other people sang with closed eyes or raised hands. Still others couldn’t sing at all, as they were simply overcome by the poignancy and joy of the moment.
I am still lingering on the mountaintop. I know it will be time, soon enough, to return to my daily grind, but when I do, I won’t be the same. I will take the experience of the burning bush with me. In the meantime, it’s okay to stay put for a moment longer, to reflect on what I heard and saw on Sunday. As I savor the experience of worship, I want to share the words of our last song with you:
Here I Am, Lord
I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord,
if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
Yours for the Kingdom,
If you are traveling, and want to keep up with our series on Exodus, click HERE