Listen to Pastor Steve’s interview with Janelle Lightbourne about worship.
Call to Spiritual Renewal – Worship
Many congregations’ mission statements define themselves as ‘worshiping communities’. That might seem obvious, but that is a statement full of truth. Surely worship is always a community event?
I have frequently talked of need that Christians need other Christians to walk with them in their faith journey. This is most evident when we think of worship. We need each other when we worship, even if we have our own favourite seat and even if we might be in a pew by ourselves, we still need to hear each other when we sing, confess, pray and respond to the table liturgy.
Music is a significant part of most of our worship services. I asked Janelle Lightbourne, our minister to the students in London, why she likes to go to worship, she said, “I love music and I love singing, and that a huge part of it for me. I like that I get to sing with other people and I get to hear other people’s voices.” I added to our conversation that I love it in worship when the accompaniment is low enough or even stops that you just hear the voices of the people carrying the song, “and you can hear the harmonies too, its beautiful”, Janelle continued.
The song of the church is emotional and tells of our story. It is also a shared story, sometimes even 2000 years old. One of my favourite hymns is Marty Haughen’s “As the grains of wheat”, ELW 465, which uses the 2nd century words of the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) that was written as an instruction manual for the early church:
“Chapter 9 And concerning the Eucharist … as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy Kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..”
from “Apostolic Fathers” translated by Kirsopp Lake, 1912
Janelle comes from a different, non-Lutheran, Christian background and she told me that, “coming to Trinity was a very different experience for me. I experienced God in a different way – it felt very rich – hearing the ancient words and knowing that those were words that were actually written years ago by people that had the same faith that I have and who thought about these things deeply. I thought it was beautiful and enriching.” This is very much being a part of a larger and ancient body of the faithful – not just the living saints (that’s you by the way).
In short – worship is a communal experience. It is a place where we can commune with God. Remembering the great commandment to love God and love your neighbour, worship is that loving connection we have with God AND with the God within each other – that embodiment of God in Jesus idea. At its best, worship is a key place to find the Jesus within each other and within the community. Worship is also a wonderful place to give thanks. Reinhard Helbing told me that “I go (to worship) sometimes just to say thank you to God, and communion – I need forgiveness too.”
While you can find God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit alone and in other places than communal worship, it is within a worshiping community that God comes to us on a steady and regular basis. It is also within a worshiping community that your own spirituality, and your own divinity (Jesus within us), makes a difference to others. This I say as a parishioner, and not just as a pastor, and I quote the very wise Rev. Paul Bosch, “I need you in worship … for my sake.”
Come, invite and encourage others, for now is always the time to worship.
Yours in Christ
- Didache: ‘Apostolic Fathers’, Kirsopp Lake, 1912 (Loeb Classical Library)