the gift of worship

Occasionally someone will share with me, often on their way out of the sanctuary, something they came up with during worship. Now I’m not talking about the sometimes lengthy responsive notes passed back and forth between people, or the elaborate games played to pass the time. Not talking about the caricature of me (or anyone else for that matter) in the pulpit. I’m not talking about the amended grocery or to-do lists for the upcoming week. Those I all find in the pews, the pew racks, and on the floor during the week! Nor am I talking about observations about what went wrong or what should have been done differently.

No, I’m talking about those who come out with evidence of something that was so significant in the worship, it had to be written down—had to be underlined—I’ve even seen multiple exclamation marks!!!—something triggering a deep need to facilitate remembrance. Sometimes it’s a prayer—a poem—written in response to something in the service. Sometimes it’s sermon notes—something that was said, pointed out or pointed to. A couple of times, people have shared an additional verse they wrote to a hymn we sang.

I’m not talking about diversions from worship, in other words. Nor am I talking about claiming worship as a starting point from which to ruminate (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!). I’m certainly not talking about compliments: “I liked the sermon”—“liked that prayer”—“that meditation”—“that music.”

No, I’m talking about something in the experience of worship that was … captivating—something that captured the individual present in hope of worship and wouldn’t let them go—something (to quote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel) that “overwhelmed the heart and usurped the mind.”

Occasionally, someone will share with me, often on their way out of the sanctuary, the gift of worship.

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3 thoughts on “the gift of worship

  1. Knowing next to nothing about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, from a bit of reading I learned that he loved the word ineffable, and used it to describe the spiritual power he felt…ineffable–incapable of being expressed in words, indescribable, unutterable. Yes, the gift of worship….

  2. OOPS…posted this in the wrong spot, so here it is again — thanks for activating the blog, I hope to be a more frequent visitor!

    so…I didn’t get a chance to speak to you after today’s worship service, but I greatly appreciate your willingness to raise some hard questions and to challenge us about choosing to live into our faith more intentionally – but as you quoted, “damn it sure is hard!” I often fear that I spend too much of my time trying to sustain and justify a lifestyle that falls far outside of what would be pleasing to God. I worry that I have allowed (participated in) my children to be more influenced by a materialistic and entitled society than by God’s requirement to love justice, do kindness and walk humbly. It’s not that we’re doing anything terribly wrong, and often we do many things right, but…is it enough? And how do I do more? That’s where I struggle.

    So, now, not only do I feel guilty about watching 24 (thanks to your message of 3 weeks ago!), I feel guilty about the clothes I bought yesterday (albeit at 50% off) and the wam house I live in, and the three cars that sit in my driveway, and the refrigerator full of food I just purchased, and, and, and….DAMN it sure is hard, but I’m glad to have a pastor like you and a community of faith that continues to raise the questions and surround me with a loving and supportive environment in which I can struggle with the tough stuff! Shall I call you when I can’t sleep tonight (or maybe I should just watch the replay of 24?) blessings!

    1. hey Christy! I’m going to go with suggesting you watch 24 when you can’t sleep!
      I keep coming back to the idea that we’re supposed to live with the simultaneous truths of unconditional acceptance and high expectations. and I think of my girls. I want them to always know how much they will be loved … no matter what. I also want them to know I expect them to work and grow and learn and mature and behave ….
      I don’t want them to feel guilty. sorry sometimes. abashed. repentant. but not guilty.
      I want them to be aware … thoughtful … intentional … mindful … considerate …
      and I want them always to know the community of faith that, as you say, is there to encourage and support and teach and challenge … and that if you really can’t sleep … will actually take a call … or a visit … whenever needed!

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