14 March 2009

Lenten Devotions: Preparation

When Moses had told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow.  Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.  
Exodus 19.9b-11

There's something with which I struggle as a campus pastor.  The nature of our community is fairly informal, which for the most part is not a problem at all.  But there are drawbacks to this informality, and occasionally I worry that our informality is actually becoming a distraction from the core of who we should be.  

When the LORD came among the people at Sinai, it wasn't just a matter of "Hey, how's it going?"  Neither should our worship be just a matter of showing up.  We are a people who profess to believe that God is actually present when we gather, that in word and sacrament God actually comes among God's people - and if Exodus is any barometer, that means something is required of us to be ready.

I'm not talking about "wear your Sunday best," necessarily.  It's about what happens once we cross the threshold between gathering and actual worship.  It strikes me that there should be a sense of holiness when we gather for worship, and as such we've started including more silence in our worship, especially at the beginning of the service after the hubbub of coming together has settled down.  

I imagine this looks different in every congregation.  In many churches a "prelude" time is even included in the order of service.  But I don't want what we do to be thought of as prelude - to me this implies something unnecessary, additional to the real worship of God, whereas we need less distraction as we prepare for worship.  

Figuring this out is one of the challenges for the 21st century church.  We've done a piss-poor job of educating ourselves about the purpose and intent behind worship, and in many places we've turned worship into a performance to be witnessed rather than a corporate entity into which we enter as full participants.  

Like the song says, 
This is holy time - we gather together to worship You, and love one another;
and as we pray - and as we sing - and as we dance - and as we dream
Oh, Lord, I beg of You just this one thing
Won't You dance with me?
Throughout the heavens and below the seas, and up on the mountaintop
Roll with the breeze - come carry me.
Lord, won't You dance with me?
Nobody goes to a dance to watch:  you go to a dance to DANCE.  May we find ourselves better prepared to dance in future days.


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