“over and over again”

I’ve been preparing to lead worship this week at our church. For the most part I enjoy preparing songs, selecting scripture readings, and crafting an overall experience that will hopefully lead the congregation to connect with God and one another.

Coincidentally this past week I’ve come across some thought-provoking pieces on the role and purpose of worship in the life of a church.

First, I read an article by religion professor Debra Dean Murphy, that asks the question, “should worship be entertaining?” She suggests “we ought to regard worship as the slow transformation of our desires and our dead-end ways.” By focusing on the resources at hand (e.g. people, not just technology or style), Murphy leaves the reader with this challenge: “if we’re not consumed with being consumers of entertainment, this work, our worship, in whatever setting we find ourselves, will be a beautiful thing” (emphasis mine).

Second, I came across this interview with author and artist Ian Morgan Cron:

Here’s a few lines that stuck out to me as I listened:

"God most often works very slowly..."

"We keep amping [worship] up. It is like being a junkie."

"When Christianity becomes an instinct...that's when you know you've arrived...telling the story over and over again..."

In both these reflections, we’re confronted with a tension in worship: our desire to experience God now is contrasted with the reality that experiencing God is often an elusive endeavor. We try so hard to meet God by the many worshipful means at our disposal: a vast blend of catchy songs, relevant sermons, a few hymns, some artsy images, all kinds of prayers, intellectual readings, and some feel-good testimonies. Oh, and maybe some scripture if there’s time :-(. I was struck, however, how both individuals commented on the patience required to worship God. Worship isn’t supposed to be easy.

In some ways, this adds pressure to my worship leading preparation. I don’t want to force my concept of worship onto the congregation or simply pander to the tastes of those in my church out of my own insecurities. Yet this reminder also takes some of the pressure off as well. Each Sunday gathering is but only one day in the year in the life of our church in the gathering of the saints around the world throughout history. I can’t do it all in one worship service. Nor should I.

In the routine of weekly worship, let’s remember this: each Sunday is one chapter of many as we gather to rehearse and remember the story of God in our midst “over and over again.”


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