During Lent, Rev Rob Stewart offers a 7-part series about the Vital Congregations Initiative entitled “7 Marks of Vital Congregations”. This is the fifth installment, which focuses on spirit-inspired worship.
Scripture: Psalm 108:1-4
1 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make melody.
Awake, my soul!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
3 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
What awakens your heart and soul?
How do you respond to the Creator of the Universe, the creator of you?
There is a yearning in our hearts to express our thoughts and feelings as our souls long for God, our Source. The Holy One is both deeply, intimately within us and vastly beyond us. This yearning seems to be a part of what it is to be human. Beyond our five senses, we reach for something more, as we seek assurance, fulfillment, companionship, unity, and more.
Our faith teaches us to direct this yearning to God, usually by praying. And we do what we can to maintain a relationship with our Source, our Spiritual Companion. I recall many song lyrics,
“more than words, yes more than words, I know you want from me.”
“how can I keep from singing?”
What is the song in your heart?
Worship is an expression of our connection with God. I like to think that every artist (whether they know it or acknowledge it) is, not only a creation of the Creator but also acting in the Image of the Creator God. Art in every form (from baking to sculpting to making music to gardening to writing a poem or rapping) is an expression of the human creation of God expressing their God-given gifts. This makes for a lot of loving and gifting going on across creation. It is wonderful that humans “worship” God in these tangible ways (even if they do not call it that).
Worship is also a communal expression in response to our God. Humans are (most of us) social beings; we like being with one another, we like creating something together that is bigger than anything our individual selves can make. I imagine that this is God acting among us, drawing us together to make of ourselves more than we are alone. Together, we can do amazing things. Coming together to praise our Maker is an essential human activity. And it is a central calling of the church. Worship is the Heart of the Church’s mission. And from our Heart, the world experiences our God-driven responses to our God and the world God loves.
The genius of Presbyterian / Reformed worship is that it guides gathered worshippers through a process of engaging the Living God. We gather, praising the God we know and love as Three in One: Creator, Christ, and Spirit. We attend to God’s Word, Jesus, through Scripture, Sermon and Sacrament. We seek reconciliation with God and with one another through confession and peace-giving. We attend to one another through our prayers and offerings. And then we separate, going forth into the new week to love and serve God by serving one another in our daily lives. And through our worship we offer our artistic gifts, most often music, making it a soulful experience.
What makes my heart sing?
How do I praise my Creator God with all my heart and soul and mind and body?
How does my congregational worship go beyond meeting ego needs and leading worshippers to deeply ponder the Living Word and then respond, offering their gifts to God?
What are the ways our congregation’s worship experiences help us be not just observers and spectators but inspired and revitalized servants bringing God’s Love to those present and even those outside the doors?