Service on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seeyouonsunday/videos/242404352149241
We got home a little later than we planned last night but Erika and I are grateful for the time and opportunity to last minute go to a worship and music conference and I hope we can share more about that with you in the future!
We have been planning for this service for a couple of months, at least in theory. The text is here, the songs are here, the disco balls are here. It is meant to be a joyful and fun and a little bit silly. And it’s always a risk to plan anything out of the context of time of what is happening in the life of our community or the world. On Friday, when news of the bombing at Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza that killed 16 people including children, on top of all the other violence that has been inflicted on the people in Gaza, I was heartbroken and questioned if this service is even in good taste. I even threatened Erika that we would trash the service and start over.
And a good night sleep, some prayer, some psalms, and conversations reminded me that our lives are often like this: We grieve loses and celebrate births, we cry for our neighbors and laugh at stories, we are angry at the injustice and joyfully sing protest songs. We are always in the middle of and tension of the profound and difficult, the joyful and loving, the grief and hope.
We can take our lead from the Psalmist.
The theme for the conference, I think, was to “sing the changes that need to come and the truths that need to be unfurled. Teach the dances that need to be danced at the end.”
So, with hearts full of all the brokenness in our lives and the world, all the joy of love and
community, all the hope that can be mustered today believing it will be renewed tomorrow, I hope you will join me in songs of joy, disappointment, celebration, and silliness–because sometimes we need the silliness to get through the harder things. …
Welcome to worship.
We do hope, that no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you find a welcome here.
The books of Samuel tells of the rise and fall of King Saul to the rise and death of King David. Much of what precedes this story is a civil war between Saul’s armies–primarily from the north–and David’s armies from the south.
David won. Saul is dead. And the forces that had been fighting for Saul, for whom Saul had been their king, who rallied them and protected them from all their foes, could no longer. They went to David, they said they are all made of the same thing, of the same family, the same people. They then celebrated David, named and crowned him king, and they all then covenanted together, for David to be their king and they to be his people. They probably hyped him up, talked of his victories, stoked his ego.
And David seems to believe his hype. He decides that the capital should be on neutral ground, so he captures Jerusalem and makes it the center of life for the united Israel. And to solidify his power, to prove his place, he throws this parade, with his armies, so many marching bands, floats, that Snoopy balloon (head cannon), and the ark–the symbol of God and God’s presence, promise, and covenant. It was understood to be where God sat enthroned when on earth. And there were rules about how it was to be cared for and how it was to travel. It was not with oxen.
David believed his own hype and propaganda. He threw a parade that celebrated his army, his bands, his Snoopy balloon, and then tried to bring his God into the city.
And it fails. As the story goes on, oxen stumble and Uzzah reaches out to steady the ark… and dies.
This horrifies David; months later he tries again, there are no bands, no military, no Snoopy balloon. Just David, in the garb of a priest, which was not a long robe but something much shorter, and maybe no underwear? Think on that when someone suggests you dance like David before the throne.
David’s first parade wasn’t about the Ark but about David, and what the ark could do for David. Or really, what God could do for David. God, through the ark being at the capital, associated with the kingship, gave David credibility, perceived power, divine authority.
The second parade is no longer a show of military strength, it is no longer just about David, it seems a little mess and maybe wasteful with all those animals being sacrificed, but while David is still leading the Ark, it isn’t about him.
These two parades mark the beginning of David’s kingship. A parade that was about David, what David had done, what he had, and that God was on his side. Then a parade that was about David’s honest place in the community, that kingship was called to be one of service, of covenant, of community, of not what God is going to do for him, but living in connection with the Divine and to live into the covenant of love.
It wasn’t about the show, it was about bringing what David had, presenting it in dance… and sacrifice every 6 steps, before God. And doing that again and again throughout his time as king. Bringing his energies, efforts, community, gifts, and relationships. And he would fail, and fall, and then bring his broken pieces back before God as an offering.
David would learn again and again that God was not something to be used for the show, that it wasn’t about being the biggest and flashiest, but about bringing him, all of him, all he has, in honest and vulnerable ways.
I think we sometimes get caught up in the “right” way to do worship, or we see someone else’s church or worship and think that’s the thing. If we just do what they’re doing… There are phases and fads. The right music, the coolest instruments, having a pulpit in the middle of the side, even our seats instead of pews was part of some church trend, a winner if I say so myself. The big arena church, with a bookstore and a coffee shop and the really cool pastor in sneakers. And they have worked for some churches. Following a prescribed way of doing church that is laid out in a 10 step plan sometimes works. And sometimes it becomes a show, a performance, a parade to impress each other.
We are never going to be a big performance church, like some of those down the road in big buildings with slides and coffee shops, lights and smoke. We might have a smoke machine… But we’re never going to be an arena church. We are who we are, we are this. And we might have more or fewer people, we might have big decorations or something small, we might have an organ, or disco, or recorded music; and all of that, is worship and praise if it is done with our heart, as it points to our true north, to the One through whom we understand our lives, our place in this web of life, understand how we love, how we serve, how we steward the earth, and each other, and our gifts. We are these broken and holy, beloved and becoming, image of God bearers who are invited to worship with ourselves, with our hearts and our minds and our beings. We bring what we have, what we do, what we love as an offering to our communal worship of God.
Worship and praise is a practice we all participate in, together. The word liturgy, which is prayers and responses and songs–it’s your bulletin, the word liturgy means the work of the people. Ours is never and ought never to be like any other community’s because we are bringing ourselves, our stories, our histories, our gifts, our passions, our understandings of God. It doesn’t mean we’re celebrating us instead of God but we are celebrating what God has done and is doing in our lives as individuals and as a community.
It’s why we keep inviting you to bring things, to dress up, to think about what is coming. You might see some different things. Maybe I’ll ask a question actually want a verbal response! Maybe you’ll have a song to share, a poem to read, art to admire and consider–something you create or something you love it’s all still reveals the work of the Divine in your life, in the world, in this community.
It’s doesn’t mean everything is going to be different, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to sing the old songs any more, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be skipping prayer or sharing peace or children’s time. But what if you have an idea that you want to share with our kiddos.
It is about our authentic creative work of worship together. It is something that grows, becomes, is imperfect but beloved. It is aspirational and vulnerable and grieves and laughs and cries and dances and sometimes all in one day. Because our worship, at its best, helps us understand our world, our place in it, our call to love, name suffering, find healing, be loved as we are and so we bring every piece of ourselves over and over again in worship of the God who calls us into community of welcome and worship together.