This week is about distractions. Squirrel! Well, not about distractions so much as about loss of focus, or maybe even loss of trust in the foundations of the faith. Once again, we are called to celebrate our faith and to embrace ways of living out that faith that might grow and change but in the end will remain true to the words and witness of Jesus Christ.
One way of expressing this in worship might be to spend some time with the “why.” Why do we do what we do? What is behind the flow of worship, the elements of worship? A teaching time can refresh our appreciation for rituals and patterns, but also breathe new life into these things we have done and said since children in some cases. And for those unfamiliar with Christian worship, it can begin to demystify the event and elements.
So, what does it mean to sing praise to God or to lift up the name of Jesus? Why do we lose ourselves in music so that the Spirit might work into our minds and hearts and bodies? Why do we read from this ancient text week after week? How does this book written in a different context by different people over a long period of time have anything to say to us today and the world in which we live now? What is prayer, and how does corporate prayer differ from private, individual prayer? Creeds and sacraments, offerings and benedictions: what are all these things and why do we do them?
This could be done briefly during worship, but it might be an occasion for a class on worship. Maybe you could follow worship with a meal and workshop on the nature and meaning and historical practice of worship in the church. Or maybe there are written materials that could be handed out that would give some insight into why and how we worship. We can recommend a text the worship team of Discipleship Ministries produced that might be a starting place. Click here to learn more about "Forming Disciples Through Worship."
The purpose behind attention to the “why” of worship is to maintain a focus. Distractions abound, and our text draws attention to an inclination to wander off in search of something new to interest a distracted mind or itching ears. Fresh expressions and innovative forms of worship are wonderful and can help a congregation reclaim the “why” of worship. But novelty for the sake of novelty can sometimes obscure the “why” and not feed the soul or point toward the kin-dom of God or elevate Christ. Grounding ourselves in what worship is about frees us for finding new ways and reinvigorating old ways of worshiping.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.