This paper was written for the class Life Together 1, Fall 2014. I really loved the process of finding what I actually believed about worship and putting it on paper. I found myself reaching back to my Presbyterian roots, as well as leaning into my newly discovered beliefs. I think this will be an evolving document that continues to grow and develop as I do. 

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The Lifestyle of Worship

When I hear the word 'worship' the first thought that comes to mind is music. Yet, the fullness of this word is so much more. My progression of thought then moves to the idea of a worship gathering. However, if we limit worship to a weekly gathering we limit worship to a once-a-week event and again we miss the fullness of the word. Worship needs to be understood holistically. Music and weekly gatherings need to be a part of the lifestyle of worship we call discipleship. I believe that worship, as a life style, is an important component of what it means to be a Child of the Creator God, Disciple of Christ, Agent in the world with the Holy Spirit and Bringer of the Kingdom.

In James K.A. Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, Smith describes humanity as “liturgical animals because we are fundamentally desiring creatures.[1]” What is important to take away from this statement is the idea that worship, or liturgy, is a part of every aspect of our lives. We all have rhythms that we live out: turn off alarm, put slippers on, use the restroom, brush teeth, wash face, put water on for coffee, get dressed and so on. These rhythms are what keep us focused on the task before us, whether it is getting ready for the day or helping us worship our God.

What makes the church, Church?

How the church engages worship is a representation of how that church engages the world. Donald Frisk makes a vital distinction of what makes a church, Church:

Thus, what constitutes the Church as Church is not its organizational structure or its forms of worship or its clergy or any other aspect of its life as an institution, but solely the active presence of Christ among the people who confess him as Lord and seek to respond to his Word. The Church is the body through which he is present and at work in the world[2].

In order to be present and at work in the world, we must practice what it means to be the Church. Worship gatherings are where this practice happens.

Upon referring to worship, Dwight Friesen said, “Sunday worship is rehearsal for everyday life.[3]” If this statement is true, which I believe it is, then it is important to investigate the various aspects of a worship service and see how those aspects reflect everyday living.

Song

Music is a way for the soul to express the joys and sorrows of life. When turning on the radio you hear the cries of a broken heart, the joys of reconciliation and everything in between. Song opens up space for people to engage with the emotion of life. Music can bring us to tears or complete joy and adoration. Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.[4]” Song allows us to express that which is within us that we have no words to articulate.

We worship through song at a worship gathering to allow us to bring our full selves to God, whether in praise or sorrow. Song allows us to engage our soul with the Creator in a way that words cannot. When we sing to God we are practicing expressing the depths of our soul to God. As we walk through our everyday life, we need to be able to reveal every emotion and deep groaning to our Lord and King. This is how we stay honest in our relationship with God.

Corporate Prayer

When we pray together we act out three important truths: [1] we recognize that we cannot live out our faith alone, [2] we must come to God with what is on our hearts as a community for the community and [3] we recognize that we are apart of the larger narrative of God’s Kingdom. These three truths emphasize the importance of the Body of Christ, as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.[5]” We are connected through Christ and therefore need to act as one. Through corporate prayer we as a community step into the unity of the Body of Christ. This unity then re-centers us as a community on our need for each other, our relationship with God and the mission to cultivate community in this world.

St. Teresa of Avila said this about prayer: “All difficulty in prayer can be traced to one cause: praying as if God were absent.[6]” When we pray together in a worship service we are preparing ourselves for the moments outside of our community when situations go a way we don't expect. We are then reminded that we are not alone in the world, and our memory shows us that God is not far away from us. God is present with us in our frustrations and God does not leave us to deal with our hardships alone. We have a community of believers that will support us as we move through whatever adversity is against us.

Greeting and Welcome

One of the key reasons the church gathers as a congregation is to jog our memories as to who we are and what our purpose is as the Body of Christ. The time set aside to welcome and greet one another is used to help a congregation see the faces of those around them, welcome any guests that may be visiting, and reiterate the identity and purpose of the congregation. This helps set the tone for the rest of the service, as well as inform the visitors why this congregation gathers. This reminder is not solely for the visitors; the members need to hear the reason they have chosen this life again as well. They can then walk into the rest of the world in confidence. 

Baptisms (monthly)

Baptisms are for both the individual and the collective. Leaving room for this external expression of an internal truth[7] provides an opportunity for the individual to claim their faith in Christ before their church family. The church family in return is able to celebrate in the spiritual transformation of one they hold dear and have poured into. This celebration is a beautiful reminder to the congregation that they are to go and make Disciples of Christ[8] as they engage in the ins and outs of people's lives.

Communion

 Like baptism, communion is an external expression of an internal truth. The most apparent action of remembrance in a worship gathering, communion is best described as the remembering of Christ’s death, resurrection and promise to come again through reenacting the Last Supper[9] that Christ had with the disciples in the upper room. This is a time as a community to remember the past, present and future of Christ in our lives. We then get to carry this remembrance with us, as we leave the gathering, into the rest of our week. Communion reminds us of the importance of Christ’s life on earth and why we need to represent the Gospel, through word or deed, to those we encounter as we move throughout our week.

Sermon or Teaching

To continue to grow in our faith, we must continue to be learners of the Biblical text. James Bruckner speaks of the church in his book, Living Faith: “Here [Church], biblical nurture and discipline occur in the context of love and concern.[10]” Worship gatherings are places were we must bring the biblical text to meet the disciples’ lives in a tangible way for the hope of transformation towards Christ, speaking truth even if it is uncomfortable. The hope for these teachings is that they will be soaked into the life of the believer and lived out as they go about their week.

The work of the disciple is messy and uncomfortable but it is more important to wrestle with the messiness than it is to sit in the apathy of contentment. It is the responsibility of the one presenting the sermon or teaching to bring truth to the best of their ability to the empowerment and development of the community. It is the responsibility of the ones receiving the teaching or sermon to intentionally and prayerfully engage that teaching to grow in Christ for the glory of expanding the Kingdom of God.

Offering

As stated above, we need each other as we live this live of worship to our God. Therefore, we much support the community that we choose to live out this life with. Offering is taken to support the everyday activities of the congregation. Whether or not people realize it, the building they use once a week is used throughout the week as well. As the family that uses that building, we must be good stewards of that building. We choose to place the expression of stewardship during the worship service to remind us that God is present not just in our gathering but also in how we maintain what has been placed in our care.

The fullness of worship includes trusting God in every aspect of our lives, including the financial aspect. I have heard it said that if you look at what a person spends money on you will see where their heart lies. We need the reminder that we are not just held by God in the spiritual but in our finances as well.

Announcements and Benediction

Announcements seem awkward at times, but without them the congregation would not know the other ways in which the community is creating opportunities for growth, fellowship, prayer and training outside of Sundays. It is important for the family to know the details of the family business. These opportunities are created so the congregation can continue to practice what it means to be a Follower of Christ in the world.

Sending! The party has to keep going just not in this building. Now that we have rehearsed the various components of a lifestyle of worship... GO!  Go out into the world and live as best you can for the Glory of the Lord your God.

Conclusion

David Bosch says, “Christianity is the only social movement where the most important people are not the members.[11]” For the Church to embrace this statement they must stop limiting worship to a Sunday gathering and start living out a lifestyle of worship. To live this lifestyle out is difficult and therefore we must practice, practice, practice. Worship gatherings are not created so the congregants can consume the goods that are handed out only to leave the building and forget what they experienced. Worship gatherings are created so we may come together as the body of Christ and practice what it means to engage the world for God’s Kingdom to expand and fill the earth.

Bibliography

Book of Confessions: The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Part 1. Louisville,

KY: Office of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2014.

 

Bruckner, James K. Living Faith: Reflections on Covenant Affirmations. Chicago, Ill.:

Covenant Publications, 2010. 97-125.

 

Friesen, Dwight. “Worship & Christian Formation.” Lecture, Life Together 1, The

Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle, WA, November 5, 2014.

 

Frisk, Donald C. "The Church and Sacraments." In Covenant Affirmations: This We Believe,

123-140. Chicago: Covenant Press, 1981.

 

Hugo, Victor. "Famous Quotes." BrainyQuote. Accessed November 18, 2014.

http://www.brainyquote.com.

 

Loughery, Pat. “Images of the Journey.” Lecture, Spiritual Formation: Prayer, Practice &

Presence, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle, WA, December 9, 2013.

 

Ruthruff, Ron. “The Word Made of Flesh.” Lecture, Biblical Theology, The Seattle

School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle, WA, November 18, 2014.

 

Smith, James K. A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation.

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

 

Foot Notes

[1] James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 40.

[2] Donald C. Frisk, "The Church and Sacraments," In Covenant Affirmations: This We Believe, (Chicago: Covenant Press, 1981), 124.

[3] Dwight Friesen, “Worship & Christian Formation,” (lecture, Life Together 1, Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle, WA, November 5, 2014).

[4] Victor Hugo, "Famous Quotes" (BrainyQuote, Accessed November 18, 2014, http://www.brainyquote.com).

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NRSV).

[6] Pat Loughery, “Images of the Journey” (lecture, Spiritual Formation: Prayer, Practice &

Presence, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle, WA, December 9, 2013.)

[7]Book of Confessions: The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Part 1, (Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2014), 124.

[8]Matthew 28:19

[9]Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14: 12-26, Luke 22:714-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

[10] James K. Bruckner, Living Faith: Reflections on Covenant Affirmations, (Chicago, Ill.: Covenant Publications, 2010), 105.

[11] Ron Ruthruff, “The Word Made of Flesh,” (lecture, Biblical Theology, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle, WA, November 18, 2014.)