Why do we worship? What is the point of getting up on Sunday morning, putting on our Sunday best (or at least whatever is clean!), and driving to 1970 Riverwoods Rd.? When you leave after worship, how are you different than when you came? What did you gain that you otherwise would not have if you had stayed in bed?
My guess is that people have a variety of reasons for coming to worship on Sunday. Some come to find a place of sanctuary after a busy week. Others come to be refreshed and renewed for the week ahead. Some come to hear God’s word. Others come to sing God’s praises. Some come to find escape from daily life. Others come to be with friends and family.
Because our worship services are so important to the life of this church, we put a lot of time and thought into creating them. You may think that we just open some kind of worship instruction book and insert the responsive readings, scriptures, and hymns for each Sunday. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too bad! But it’s not that simple, because our worship together is vital and requires the best we have to give.
You may notice that each Sunday, at the top of the order of worship, there is a Worship Focus. This word or phrase is the theme which guides all that we will do in worship that day. For example, if the Worship Focus is “Teach Us to Pray,” you know that the readings, hymns, sermon, and even children’s time may reflect that theme. We try to weave together the various elements of worship with this theme, giving the service flow and continuity.
If I had to describe our worship in one word, it would be “participatory.” A worship service belongs to the entire congregation, not just the pastors and elders. Every person who comes into the sanctuary on a Sunday morning has a part to play in that day’s worship. We are all the actors in this divine drama, crafting the service of worship for our audience, which is God. By my count, there are seven different times in our 8 a.m. service and 18 different times in our 10 a.m. worship where the community participates in one way or another.
We sing hymns together. We share announcements together. We greet one another. We share joys and concerns together. We say prayers together. We give an offering together. We take communion together. Our worship service does not belong to Tim or me. It belongs to you, for the purpose of giving God praise and glory.
I make this point because I want you to see that worship is not a passive activity. I don’t want you to come on Sunday and sit in the pew, waiting to be entertained or enlightened. I want you to come ready to take action! Worship is not a place to unwind and turn off your brain. To the contrary, excellent worship demands that we engage all five of our senses as we live out our faith together as a community.
We worship on Sunday because, to survive the other six days of the week, we need to be reminded that we are not alone, that we have a purpose and a call. Thomas Long says it so well in his book Testimony I’m going to quote him here: “The relationship between Sunday, as a day of worship, and the rest of the week is not just one of sequence, it is a matter of depth. Sunday is not just one more day in a string of days. Rather, Sunday, as the day of worship, is the essence of the week, the Day of all Days, the day that discloses what is deep and hidden, but nonetheless true, about every day.”
That truth, as I understand it, is that we live because of our Creator God, and we are called to take what we experience in worship – God’s grace, love, forgiveness, community – and live it out the rest of the week. How can we do that without starting our week in worship?
See you on Sunday!