Worship is addressed to …
MY FRIEND David Herbert has “a bee in [his] bonnet” about learning leadership from nature. I have a bee in mine about planning worship well, paying particularly close attention to the words we ask ourselves and others to use / pray / celebrate; paying particular attention too to the fact that Christian Worship offered by human persons is addressed to God, and not just to tickling the fancies of individual members of the Body of Christ. (Though people could, on many occasions, be forgiven for being persuaded otherwise!)
God’s trying to attract our attention
Word and words in worship will sometimes challenge and stretch me – because it’s a two-way exercise. Worship isn’t just our addressing God, it’s intended to be space for God’s fullness, holiness, liveliness, healing and wholeness to address us. The buzzing of the bee in our bonnet might well be God’s trying to attract our attention, trying to encourage us to “sit down and shut up” for a minute so that we hear a Word that doesn’t come out of our own oh so talkative mouths or imagination!
Words matter, so, so much, because The Word matters. And the Word’s word to the world was and is that matter matters, which is to say that God is incarnate, present in all things and in all people. So liturgical practice that excludes anyone is a non-starter.
Worship “gives worth”
Worship that excludes – by teaching, by pomposity, by sloppiness, by bad theology, overbearing self-righteousness, or by other poor example – does not follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth. Worship that withholds compassion, forgiveness, healing and wholeness is unworthy of the name. In “giving worth to” others, to all others, especially those we particularly think of as “other”, we offer the best worship to God. “What you have done for even the least of these my brethren you have done also for me.”
Worship calls … and unites …
Worship opens doors. And if it’s true that it opens doors onto “the reign of God” in our midst (the perpetual “second coming (parousia) of Christ” – in, and through, and with, and for, and all around us, or the eternal dance (perichoresis) of God in Creation if you like) – then it is correspondingly true that worship calls for an opening of our own hearts and lives. The doors of our churches ought never, ever to be closed against any child of God. And the children of God come possessed of many different creeds (“I believes”), in many different colours, from many different backgrounds and cultures, in immeasurably different shapes and sizes – all alive and kicking, by God’s good grace and patience, all imbued with some, though in this world not all, Christ-likeness, so each and every one of them a sister or a brother to us. When we address one another we address something of the Spirit of God. When we embrace one another we embrace God. When we seek communion with one another we come to know communion with God. Our missio. The mission, the hospitality of God – the Mass!
Well planned worship invites us to make sense …
So I’m inordinately blessed here that others have bonnets with similarly buzzing bees in them, and tonight’s Worship Planning meeting was not just about flicking through hymn books and heading for our favourite tunes. Tonight we were doing some theology together. God present – in, and through, and with, and for, and all around us – was stretching us, reaching to us, bending us, reshaping us, calling us to deeper generosity, to wider, broader, higher, deeper vision; calling us to make sense of ourselves, of our neighbours, of the nations, of our world, of our Universe; calling us to make sense of God. And so to do Real Worship, in the Real Presence of God.