A Gospel-Formed Community: Value 2 of 7: Celebrating our Worship.
Revelation 5, Psalm 95, Romans 11:33-12:2
So what is worship, anyways? According to our web-based discussion, and most standard dictionaries, worship is…
– Acts of worship, “to render religious reverence and homage”
o But this isn’t very Anabaptist of us, given how the early Anabaptists rebelled against worship that was just ritual.
– Or, Feelings: “to feel an adoring reverence or regard.”
o But this isn’t very Anabaptist either, because the birth of Anabaptism was just that, a re-baptism, it was an act in history.
Do we get to pick actions or feelings? Or is it both actions and feelings, a nice healthy balance? Worship, it seems, is something more whole than just an act, and something more deep than just a feeling.
There is a third definition of worship I’m even more interested in exploring. The idea that worship is that which shapes us into the image of Christ.
Worship shapes us
Throughout scripture we find this to be true, worship can and does shape our very character, and rewrite the DNA of our souls.
Worship shaped Jacob into Israel when he turned wrestling with a stranger in the middle of the night into an opportunity for worship.
Worship is what shaped Moses into a leader when leading he did not want to do. “Remove your sandals, because the ground you are standing on is holy ground.”
Worship shaped Israel into a nation as it gazed towards the mountaintop.
Worship shaped Isaiah into a prophet of God when he said, “Here I am, send me.”
Worship shaped Simon into Peter when he finally saw Jesus as the Christ, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” And with that, Jesus changed his name.
Worship shaped the early church of 12 or so disciples into a thriving, pulsating, living body of 3000 hungry for more.
Worship in the form of re-baptisms shaped our ancestors to be a radical, dissenting, passionate, missional, unstoppable people.
Worship Shapes Our Vision
Worship shapes us in at least three ways. The first, and primary way, is that worship shapes us to be oriented to God and to God’s kingdom. God, we will find if we worship him long enough, is committed to a different kind of world. And that is why we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done.”
In Revelation 5 the author/artist gives us a picture of reality as best he can. There is a God seated on the throne, in whose hand lays all the secrets of the universe: time, meaning, history, the future, and Truth. But no one or nothing is able to make sense of it. They look and look, and no one, not the brightest minds or the most powerful warriors can open the scroll in God’s hand. No one, that is, except Jesus, the slaughtered lamb. Only Jesus can unlock history and time and Truth. He can, and he does. Worship is any and everything that reminds us of this vision of reality. Through worship we’re asked over and over again, “Whose story do we take to be the true picture of how things are?” and so worship can be any feeling, any action, that shapes us into the kind of people who take Jesus story to be the true picture of how things are.
Paul tells us that we see in a mirror dimly (1 Cor 13:10-12). Worship gives us a clearer vision of God, our world, and of ourselves. There have been times in my life where some action or setting has shaped me to see things more clearly. At one point in my life I needed help seeing myself as I truly was. These counseling sessions became for me some of the most intense acts of worship, and some of the most deeply formative events of my life. At other times in my life I have been shaped into the image of Jesus by movies (2008 movies in this category include The Visitor, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E, Rachel Getting Married), music, books (typically not “Christian), and culture that has left me surprised but thankful. Still at other times my heart has been shaped by feelings not of joy or praise, but of lament, anger, sadness, pain, shame, and humor.
If worship is that which shapes us, than any activity, and any feeling, can be worship.
– If this is true, then playing your violin or trombone, or riding your bike can be worship.
– If this is true, then working in your woodshop, turning bowls, making bird houses, can be worship.
– If this is true, then lament, anger, holy impatience, humor, love, joy, sadness, can all be ways of worshipping.
– If this is true, then the outreach team needs to be intimately tied and care for the operations of the worship team. If this is true, that worship shapes us, it’s not more announcements or more convenient events, it’s a certain kind of worship that is needed to make outreach team successful.
– If this is true, then stewardship team need not be burdened alone to balance the budget. But must invest their own time in worship, and tend to the worship of others. Worship, not fear, orientation, not bank statements, will balance our budget and let our vision soar.
– If this is true, then the discipleship team need not fret over finding the perfect curriculum or the highest trained teachers for SS. But find teachers who are willing to be shaped by their own acts of worship, and curriculum that shapes students through their own acts of worship.
– If this is true, then your new pastor needs to be spending more time in his own acts of worship than he does in preparing the details of our corporate Sunday Service.
Worship shapes us to be equipped to take part in God’s mission.
Freeing Worship from the sanctuary
I want to ask one final question. If worship can be almost any act. And worship can include almost any feeling or emotion. And if we claim that worship actually does shape us. Then why leave it in the sanctuary? Why limit it to 75 minutes on Sunday mornings? There are other things we do together as a church than Sunday mornings from 10:45-12 noon, why if worship shapes us in ways we appreciate not do it more? I’m not suggesting that we add more services, or come to church at 6AM before work. No. I’m suggesting we incorporate new patterns of behavior into existing life and ministry settings to enhance our corporate life together.
I’ve made a list of 25 or so life and ministry settings. Are we taking time in SS, and our meetings, and our one on ones, and in our families, to orient ourselves to God and God’s kingdom, to seeing ourselves as Beloved Participants, and to others? Worship is not actions, or feelings, it is that which shapes us into the image of Jesus Christ. To continue on our Transformation Journey, we must let our worship spill out of the sanctuary into other life and ministry settings.
We are Houston Mennonite Church.
And this is what we value.