By Katherine Will
Director of Music and Worship
As I sat in a pew recently for worship, I had a thought about the difference between attending worship and attending a sporting event or other type of entertainment. We treasure tickets on the fifty yard line or at center court, so that we can be close to the action, yet the front pews in church are almost always empty. We think nothing about adding our voices to the cheers and chants for our teams, some of which can be rather silly, yet we recoil at the idea of singing or praying out loud. And the next day, we discuss and describe the highlights of the game in great detail. How often have we shared the highlights of a great sermon around the water cooler?
But worship is not a spectator sport. The Rev. Dr. Delesslyn Kennebrew in an article entitled What is True Worship writes “Worship is not the slow song that the choir sings. Worship is not the amount you place in the offering basket. Worship is not volunteering in children’s church. Yes, these may be acts or expressions of worship, but they do not define what true worship really is.” True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness.” She goes on to say “We worship God because he is God. Period.”
Thomas Cranmer, in creating the Book of Common Prayer, emphasized this idea of holistic worship – worship that involves our entire lives. Weekly worship was not something to check off your list of things to do, but was an opportunity to unite the people of God in the Eucharist, and it drew its strength from those who were united together in prayer during the week. The liturgy of worship demonstrated the fullness of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and what God was doing invisibly in the hearts and minds of all who took part.
Writer and Music Director Jonathan Aigner adds, “When we worship together, we aren’t only part of one community, but we’re identifying ourselves with the incredible story of the Gospel and joining the radical political movement begun by Christ himself. As we meet as God’s covenant people, the centuries of time collapse, and we find ourselves alongside the saints who have come before. In fact, we are joining the song of the angels, and twinkling along with the light of the morning stars, begun even before creation. And we are rehearsing for the unending hymn, the heavenly liturgy, which we will join one day.”
So the next time you are in the pew, don’t expect to be entertained, but expect to find God – in the stillness, in the music, in the ancient prayers and rhythms of liturgy, in the Word and Sacrament, and in the people sitting around you. We are the Body of Christ, and God’s story has become our story. Alleluia!