I love worship. In every sense of the word I love it. I love the music, I love the readings, I love the confessions and reflections, I love hearing the Word (even if it’s delivered by me), I love the blessings, and I love the people. From the “Good morning” hugs to the “See you next week” farewells – and everything in between – it’s all good…and COVID-19 HAS MADE THIS DIFFICULT. But I”m not writing to vent on COVID, I’m not even writing to vent about the difficulty of worshiping and church during this time…I’m writing in joyful-hopeful-wonder.
We all have our traditions and ways of doing things and I’ve been in enough churches (attending and working) to know that we all do things similar and yet different here in the States. Even while I got the honor and pleasure of doing an internship at an inter-city Black church, which was some of the most enriching and spirit-filled worship services I’ve EVER been apart of, we still, for the most part did the same things I had become accustomed with in the white churches I’ve grown up in. Clearly some churches do more “traditional” music (which I hate that term but you know what I mean by it) and others do more “contemporary” (again – I hate that term) and then there are those that blend and every space therein. We all, for the most part, have a welcome, a greeting, a welcome blessing and sending blessing, maybe some time of confession and reflection, some prayer time, the Word that is delivered, and maybe Communion this week or next – or maybe every few months. But all those parts, for the most part, are there. But what about our brothers and sisters in South America? What about the church in the middle of CAR? What about the persecuted underground church in the middle of Asia? How do our brothers and sisters there worship God, hear his word, get reminded of his grace, and go in his love? Do they have the same elements? Are theirs different? Do they spend more time here or there and what does their music look like, sound like, feel like? Is there dancing? Are they speaking in tongues? Are they quiet as they center themselves and prepare for the Spirit to take them to a place of peace or are they boisterous to the point where the windows are shattering and the music is so loud that it’s peaking the speakers?
I WANT TO KNOW!!!?
I want to know because I don’t know. And I don’t know not only because I’ve never been there but we, for the most part here in the US, try to stay within our “boundaries” of how and why we do things. And that got me wondering…not only “why” (which would be a whole long series of blogs) but really, more than anything, it got me hopeful of what eventually comes. But I don’t think this is just a U.S. thing as most churches around the world have a laundry list of things they do each Sunday that is rooted deeply in tradition, culture, history, comfort, and the very people that come in on Sunday morning or evening. We do what we do because it’s who we are and what we’ve always done. And even then many things we do at the church we attend is because we’ve sought OUT that church because THEY do what we want to do (we tend to want to congregate with like-minded people – and so go figure we tend to do that in in our church-settings as well)…so what would a conversation look like for you and I to look at my church, and your church, and their church, and the way we ALL worship, and the things we do, and the traditions we have…and try them? What would it look like for my church to take a page from our brothers in the middle of Brazil and do a service reflective of their style, tradition, and culture? If we proclaim we worship the same God – shouldn’t our worship be transferable? Wouldn’t trying something “new” to us expand our worship of God?
Just as we can expand our palate with new cuisines and foods from other cultures – what about our worship styles and traditions? What would it look like to participate in a cultural “worship” of our senses on a Sunday as we experience how our brothers and sisters in other countries worship God and truly open up our eyes and ears to the full breath of worship SHOULD be, COULD be, and WILL be? ESPECIALLY in light of Revelation 7:9‘s declaration that we will worship with brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation! I CAN’T EVEN FATHOM THE GLORY OF THIS! Banner waivers, tongue-speakers, loud on-and-off key worshipers from all around the world. Smells of incense, clinging of bells, organs, guitars, drums, tambourines, djembes, cajones, trumpets, harps, electric bass, and that guy who plays a mean triangle! There’s going to be gospel choirs, and hand-bell choirs (I actually don’t know what they’re called) and times of quiet-joyful solitude as the Holy Spirit moves us to the left and right and we gather in hands with brothers and sisters who used those hands to till the ground in Ecuador, did calligraphy in Japan, cooked food on the streets of Taiwan, typed on computers in Canada, welded metal on an old John Deere in rural America, and whittle whistles on their back porch. Oh man…I CANNOT WAIT!
Sorry – I think I worked myself up .. BUT CAN YOU HEAR IT AND SEE IT? It makes you want to shout, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Not only so all this sin and brokenness and division will be taken away – but I’m ready to get my full-on worship on! (OK, primarily to take the sin away…but the worship is in a pretty good 2nd place)
I think that there is not only a beautiful understanding of worship that we are missing out on but I think we’re also missing out on what eternity will look like…and now, more than ever with COVID-19, I long for a worship that is so full of my senses that I nearly explode with joy.