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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thoughts on Worship

The year I began my Doctor of Ministry studies in Preaching, I took time to visit three sister Mennonite churches in hopes of hearing some preaching.  Instead of preaching, I got in on service project reporting Sunday, where all three churches were reporting on service trips done by youth and others.  I was devastated.  If an exit interviewer had asked me, "What is the gospel proclaimed by this church, what is the good news?" I think I would have said, the gospel is that Mennonites are nice people, in each case.  Little in these services was said about God, to God, from God.  But there was plenty of self congratulatory drivel.

Had I been looking for a church (or looking for God, or a word from or about God), I would not have been back, and likely would not have given another Mennonite church a try.  My response to these services was not smugness, but confession.  Any of these three churches could have been my church, planning such a service with my full approval.

But something happened in one of these services that changed me, and became the impetus for my D.Min. thesis.  During an open sharing time, a man rose to speak apologetically, because, he said, many people pray and do not experience healing.  He had been going blind, had surgery would some risk, and regained his sight.  Choking back tears he testified that God had given him his sight back, "I don't understand it, but I know that I was blind and now I can see."  I get choked up as I reflect on that moment.  And it changed my understanding of worship forever.

Worship is about God.  It is telling of God's might acts (Deuteronomy 6 and 1 Peter 2); it is bringing the concerns of our hearts to God as a community; and it is listening to God's voice.

The Worship Commission at College Mennonite did some serious work thinking about the purpose of worship before I moved to Goshen, and came to similar conclusions.  Sermons are not about the Bible, they are about God.  We preach from the Bible because we believe the Bible points to God.  Sermons are not a "how to" lecture to help us be better Christians, but an occasion for us to meet God, to know God better, and to proclaim who God is and what God is (God gives recovery of sight to the blind, for example).  We do not have a bulletin anymore, we have a worship folder.  Worship is not for sharing or receiving information, we have other places in the life of our congregation for that.  We do not share announcements.  In other words, we do our best not to talk to ourselves about each other, but to testify to each other about God, to bring our concerns to God, and listen for God's voice in our lives.

The greatest commandment is to love God with heart, soul, strength and mind.  Worship is where this love is expressed fully, together with other believers in a community of faith.