Ezra said: 'You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you. You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham; and you found his heart faithful before you, and made with him a covenant to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite; and you have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous.
-- Nehemiah 9:6ff
This is going to sound silly, but I'm wondering - what's the role of prayer in considering worship? By that, I mean that we're talking a lot about our (humans') role in it, and a little about God's place in the whole mess of liturgy and worship. But as far as I'm concerned, what makes it worship is the element of praising/glorifying God. (I think that can happen in a whole lot of ways - lament, for instance, can be a way of praising, especially in the context of a fuller relationship - but I think that kind of focus on God is essential.) That's not because it's something God needs, exactly, so much as because it's because God loves us and asks our love, and praising and glorifying God (in various and divers ways) is what we can do. If, then, God is somehow central to this worship thing, and it's not just about what we get out of it, then shouldn't we be asking God's input as well?I think so, beth. I do. And I think that the service on Sunday morning is a good place to do that. Pray for it in the prayers of the people. Make it a request during that time if that is the tradition of your congregation. God's people are about renewal and reconciliation, no? Should we not ask for the constant renewal of our shared worship life? Sometimes, I imagine, this renewal will not lead to structural change, but it might. Beth's comment touches on part of my concern in this conversation. Congregations want people to meet them. They want people to join. Well, this is likely true outside a Catholic or Orthodox setting. We free church folk have this dynamic moreso than some other traditions. There is no ecclesial allegiance or membership beyond the immediate fellowship, so we are constantly fretting over membership. A Catholic parish has no such frustration...or at least not in the same way. But I digress. Sort of. It is good to be hospitable. It is good to be liked. It is good that people come and find a place for themselves in the midst of a community. But the community's identity cannot begin and end with the people gathered. It has to begin and end with God. We Christians speak in terms of the Body of Christ. We are part of it, part of God. What we do and who we are points to God. So too must our worship. It cannot point to us. Involve us, yes. Engage us, yes. Define us, yes. But we worship God and not ourselves. The Body of Christ (forgive the language here, Rich) kneels before God in worship. That is one posture at least. Israel understood itself as God's people. And, so do Christians. An aside: beth also commented that "[she's] liable to be somewhat unconcerned about the number of people we get in our pews (or chairs, or soft spaces, or whatever)." I understand this ideal. And in some ways it is wise. But it is hard when so many churches are wondering how to pay the bills. So, where I will agree with her is in that our ultimate concern should not be numbers. Our ultimate concern is in praising God in worship. Most pundits suggest that fixating on the numbers rarely works in church development anyway. ;-) We now return to our regular musings. I posted the reading from today's lectionary from Nehemiah because it speaks of what God has done and why we gather in praise, prayer, supplication, etc. Worship assumes a real God, actual presence and promises fulfilled. God has acted, and God will act. We should pray that God acts in our midst and informs our worship. That's what I think at least. And it is one reason why there is an invocation of some sort at the beginning of most orders of worship. "O Lord, open our lips." "O Lord our God, whose might is incomparable, whose glory is incomprehensible, whose mercy is infinite, and whose love of man is ineffable, do thou thyself, O Master, in thy tenderheartedness look down upon us and upon this holy house, and grant us and those who pray with us thy rich mercies and compassion." There are too numerous to list here. I imagine you get the point.