This week our Worthington Presbyterian congregation is looking at the second of five “practices of fruitful congregations.” This second week we are talking about and thinking about and praying about “PASSIONATE WORSHIP.”
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30; Deuteronomy 6:4).
Dr. Piermont today told us about how the great Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, thought of worship. He said that one might think that the congregation is the audience during worship, with the pastors, liturgists, musicians and choirs “on stage,” performing. No, Kierkegaard said, the worship leaders are more like conductors, and the congregation members are the participants. GOD is the AUDIENCE.
A colleague was teaching this to his congregation one Sunday. After worship, as the church members shook the pastor’s hand at the doors of the church, one church member said, “I don’t know about YOU, pastor, BUT I WAS GREAT TODAY!”
It makes you think, doesn’t it? You and I both have vital roles to play in worship. Are we listening well to the Holy Spirit, as God speaks to us through the music, the Scripture readings, the sermon, the prayers, and the silence? Are we loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength? Are we worshiping God passionately?
John Calvin, the great Protestant Reformer and founder of the Presbyterian/Reformed Church, was a brilliant man. He was a remarkable scholar, and author, and teacher. He certainly loved God with his mind. But one thing I always treasure about him is his personal crest, or seal. It showed a heart with an open hand, with the motto underneath: Cor Meum Tibi Offero Domine, Prompte et Sincere ("My heart I offer to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely"). He embodied that life-giving combination of loving God with all of our mind AND all of our heart.
Richard Rohr, a wonderful contemporary theologian, once described true worship this way: “True prayer means you can cry from your heart and laugh from your belly.”
Isn’t that lovely? “Passionate worship” means bringing all of us—all of our feelings—all of our joys and sorrows—to God, in whom we find fullness of life. How do we do this as a community of faith? And how do we do this as individuals—Monday through Saturday? Maybe that’s why we call the indredients of worship (the prayers, and readings, and music) “liturgy.” Because “liturgy” literally means “the work of the people.” Loving God is our great work, and our great joy!