Tag Archives: Worship

What's Right with Church?

St Andrew's church - box pews. Thurning, Norfolk
St Andrew’s church – box pews. Thurning, Norfolk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All across this country fewer and fewer people attend worship on Sunday morning. This is not merely a mainline problem with people leaving to attend new mega-churches, for surveys increasingly show that the fastest growing religious preference is “spiritual, but not religious” or “none of the above.”

Churches build during the 1950’s or earlier can tell of times when the pews were so full that they shifted children to separate classrooms during worship so adults would have places to sit. Many of these congregations also have photographs showing all their pews filled. Yet today, many of those churches now attract only a tenth of their former attendance. Churches had built grand structures to fill a need only to have the need shrink while the population grew. It is like the bridge builder who spanned a mighty river, only to have the river move.

It seems that our mode of being the Church of Jesus Christ in the world suddenly and unexpectedly stopped working. Many congregations strive to hang on to Sunday morning worship, Sunday school, and committee meetings by chasing people who now attend infrequently. while other people explore not merely new music styles in worship but new modes for ministry, including coffee shop discussion groups and blog sites.

instead of scraping what the Church has done for hundreds, if not thousands of years and inventing a new mode of doing “church”, what about the old mode still works? How can we enhance those aspects of being a worshiping community?

  •  In our increasingly digitally connected world, Church still provides a place to meet WITH other people who know you beyond your username. A place where someone you know will greet you with a handshake and listen genuinely to your joys and concerns.
  • Church still provides opportunities to use skills beyond one’s profession. Want to practice your public speaking skills or play a musical instrument? A congregation may welcome your services helping to lead worship.
  • Church still encourages and equip members and visitors to connect with the One who is greater than all creation.
  • If spirituality can be compared to the colors and decorations on the walls of a house, Church provides the framing and walls, theological structure and guidance that have helped people connect with God for thousands years.

I was glad when they said to me,
 “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
— Psalm 122:1

Dancing in Worship

Have you ever watched a small child dance during worship?

Little children get caught up with the music and celebration. They prance and twirl in the aisle. And from where I stand during worship, at the front of the sanctuary, I get to watch people smile as they watch this child truly enjoy worship. I get the impression that at least a few people would like to dance with them. I know I would.

Worship (Photo credit: 藍川芥 aikawake)

Alas, children seldom do this beyond a certain age. We have a way of making older children aware of when their behaviors are considered childish and that mature people sit quietly during worship or that we follow certain scripted motions when the liturgist beckons the congregation to respond by: folding hands with bowed head, standing, or raising arms.

What if we had the freedom to express physically how the Spirit moves us absent any social constraints?

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” — 2 Samuel 6:21-22 (NRSV)


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February 17th: “Worship as Giving Thanks”

How are we living now in a promised land, physically and eternally? And how do we give thanks?

This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for 1st Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 – – Considering both the promised land that we are in and the promised land that is yet to come and considering both the physical and the eternal places where we are and will be, how are we living now in the promised land, physically and eternally? What promised land, physical and eternal, lies be for us to possess and to settle in to?

2 – – All that we have to obtain food to put in our mouths comes from the land that God has given to us. Hence it is appropriate to dedicate a portion of what we produce for doing God’s work in the world.

3 – – Acknowledgment of fulfilling the commands to possess and settle in the land that God has given.

4 – – The priest has no lines except to accept the gift. Should the priest consider the honesty of the gift (as Peter considered and rebuked Ananias and Sapphira for their dishonest gifts) or is the priest to accept whatever gift is given?

5-9 – Statement of God’s actions in the past redeeming Israel from positions of inferiority.

10-11 – Our gifts celebrate all the bounty which God has given. They are not payments, like rent.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded with several unrelated household laws and a reminder of the harassment by the Amakelites, as if to say, those who do not keep these laws will be blotted out as the Amakelites were blotted out.
  • Followed with a ritual of tithing, prescribing how to give thanks, and a charge to observe these ordinances annually.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 specifies bringing offerings to the place the LORD will name.

This passage provides the ritual of offering and details the rationale for the offering of first-fruits.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Divinely instructed cultural code.

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • This makes a radical departure from sacrifices. Other gods demanded offerings as payment for protection or payment for gifts received. This is an act of thanksgiving.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • What “lands” have we escaped from?
  • How is our present circumstance a “promised land”?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Joseph Blenkinsopp (“Deuteronomy,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall, 1968.), citing von Rad, notes verses 5 – 9 may be the oldest Israelite “credo”.

Ronald E, Clements (“The Book of Deuteronomy,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1998.) notes this passage declares “the primary importance of the sanctuary with its controlling position in shaping the life of the community in all its aspects.” Citing Rost, Clements opposes von Rad, opining the included creed is of late and revisionist view of the meaning of worship. He reflects that the attention of this passage comes from its portrayal of God as one who acts in history. “Moreover, because these events are related directly to the situation of the worshiper, making reference to the land on which the crops were grown, a bridge is built between the past and the present and between God and human beings.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Worship is an act of thanksgiving for God acting in our past and in our present.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

God gives to each of us the whole of our lives and we should give thanks for that gift.