Though this is the final week of this worship series, our journey to become the people of God continues as sanctifying grace works in our lives to form us more and more into the image of Christ. And so, we end this series by focusing on a feature of our life with God that is critical to sustaining us along the way: paying attention. Now, this is not just about us paying attention to God. It is also about cultivating the trust that God pays attention to us.
The passages from Isaiah and Mark give us a lot of opportunities to explore different aspects of paying attention. Perhaps you want to highlight how to pay attention to the internal life with God. Consider starting the service by inviting people to welcome themselves to worship with all the highs and lows, struggles and triumphs that they carry with them into the space. Begin the passing of the peace guiding congregants to greet themselves with peace before they greet one another with peace. Incorporate a prayer of confession that names the ways we struggle to pay attention, including the ways we ignore our own emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical needs.
Or maybe you want to focus on paying attention to the needs of others. I am almost positive that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law didn’t just get up from her sick bed and start serving Jesus and the disciples just to keep busy. She noticed a need and met it. What are the ways gathered worship can help us practice noticing? During prayers of the people, encourage congregants to share their own needs and struggles, as well as the needs and challenges they have noticed in their neighborhoods. Include a call to action before the benediction that invites people to walk around their neighborhoods and pray for what they notice during the upcoming week. Offer an opportunity to follow up next week during Sunday school or small-group time to see what people noticed and discern how God might be calling individuals or the church to act.
The other aspect of paying attention in today’s texts is paying attention to God. Taking time to wait on God—not waiting on God to act, but paying attention to God who is always with us for no other reason than to be and to be revived. Here is where worship can help us move beyond solely or primarily transactional interactions with God. Carve out space in worship to simply enjoy God’s presence. This may look like sitting in quiet, or you might invite the congregation into a simple prayer practice that is accompanied by gentle music or a sung chorus. If you begin worship by declaring the glory and the wonder of God, what might it look like to declare God’s love and wonder back to the gathered people? However you choose to embody this sense of paying attention in worship, keep in mind how you might translate the practice that occurs in worship into a resource, a prayer practice, or a meditation for the congregation to use during the week, as well. Paying attention is not reserved for Sundays. It is a necessary part of working out our salvation daily as we become the people of God.
Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts Ministries, served as an organist and music minister in United Methodist congregations in the Northwest Texas and North Texas Annual Conferences, as well as the New Day Amani/Upendo house churches in Dallas. After receiving her Master of Sacred Music and Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology, Lisa earned her PhD in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University wherein she researched and wrote on the doctrine of Christ, disability, and atonement.