This week I have been attending a preaching conference in St. Paul. One of the classes I took today talked about what an early church service in 150 A.D. would look like. It started out with people reading scripture until they were out of time. Then the presider, not a preacher, would invite people to follow what was laid out in scripture. This "sermon time" was followed by prayers, and then the sacraments both baptism and holy communion. Finally there would be an offering taken and this offering would be given out to the folks who needed help. Any members who couldn't make it would be visited by the deacons, so that they check in a see how the folks were doing. This service is none too different than what we have today. The professor, my worship professor from Luther Seminary Dirk Lange, reminded us that all the parts of worship should point back to the text(s). Worship was in a sense acting out the parts of our faith. They allowed our bodies as well as our minds to participate in this celebration of who God is. Each week for these early Christians was a celebration.
I think worship for many of us from week to week can feel pretty routine and anything but special. Last Sunday we talked about the Ten Commandments and more specifically the third commandment, which says remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy. Sabbath again is a churchy word for saying rest. Sunday is about Rest. The way we as Christians should rest is by spending some time with God, this is why we go to church on our traditional Sabbath day of Sunday. Resting allows us to realize that everything in our lives is not dependant on us but is in fact dependent on God. Sabbath or Rest days are to remind us that we can be free from our anxieties; free from the weight of the world on our shoulders; and free from the worry that we don’t ever measure up. This is why last week, I talked about worship as freedom. The very act of showing up on Sunday mornings should lift our spirits because of this fact that we are reminded we are free. That is why I put up balloons in the narathex because it reminded us that we should treat worship as a party or celebration. I found it interesting that Professor Lange was tying into this same thing by referencing how the early church held service. Worship is about celebrating the love, grace, and mercy of God. Yet why is it so hard for us to feel this excitement? So I am asking you this week, what could we do that would change the way that you would think about worship? What would it take for you to look forward to coming each and every week?
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Pastor Paul. I hope you find these reflections insightful and help you in your faith journey!