Friday, January 25, 2013

What Worship Will Be

Monday-morning-quarterbacking is a common activity among pundits and prophets in the religious realm.  Anyone can look back and have the eyes of an eagle to spot the problems and issues that have got us into the present situation.  

This is particularly true when thinking about worship.  Reviewing the past and critiquing it is a usual approach to the current state of Christian liturgy, but to project one’s thoughts into the future is an altogether different and more difficult exercise.  

So, for your consideration here’s some positive speculation about what our worship might be in the next generation or so, if we were to focus our attention and put real effort into reform and renewal of liturgy. The underlying premise here is not new: If liturgy is renewed and reformed, the church will be also.

Therefore, what I offer are hopes, dreams, perhaps even some wishful thinking – dare I suggest, “a vision”? – about what worship might be, could be for our grandchildren and their children.  There’s no definite schedule—but we can glimpse it coming, over the horizon.

The church in the future will define itself by its worship life. For example: The Sacrament of Baptism will be the motivator for its education of Christians young and old. The Confession of Sin and reception of God’s  forgiveness, will give each one personal release and the capacity to forgive others. The Word in Scripture will be the guide for the church’s witness to the Good News of God’s love for all people.  The Lord’s Supper will be the feast to which all are invited to receive God’s nourishment for the journey of life.  The Prayers of the People will rise up as individual and corporate commitments to perform caring acts, and dedication to carry out a healing mission to a hurting world.

Future Christians will be drawn to common worship each week—every week, in fact.  They will be inwardly committed to attending, barring only sickness or urgent necessity.  Should they miss a week for whatever reason, they’ll experience an emptiness, a loss of something important in their lives.

What is more, they’ll see their hour or so at worship as an active experience, requiring effort and energy and personal engagement.  They’ll sing with emphasis and pray fervently.  They’ll rejoice not only with volume and voice, but at the depths of the heart and soul. They will listen intently and take within their thoughts the Word proclaimed and interpreted. They’ll rehearse and relive their own baptisms along with every new disciple bathed in the holy sacrament.  They’ll take and share food and drink with one another, and with the physically and spiritually hungry of the world. Their celebration will be in common with the praise and prayers of those around them, as well as with Christians in every land. 

Christians of the future will not confine their worship activity to one day a week, but will accept or define self-discipline to lead them toward “praying without ceasing.”  Such personal prayer will include prayers with others as well as solitary times.  This daily prayer activity by individuals and small groups will compliment, support and continue the Lord’s Day worship of the whole church. 

This coming generation of Christians will carry their worship experiences, Sunday or weekday, into their lives.  They will leave the church building, or rise from personal prayer, energized and enthusiastic* to carry out the particular mission with which God has entrusted them.  They’ll do so courageously and foolishly, risking all for the one who gave everything for them.

If this is the vision, then the task is to aim our liturgy in that direction.  It’s not so much to wag the finger of criticism of the past practices, as it is to see what needs to change to get better results.  (Although, it’s helpful to keep history of past failure and foolishness in sight so as not to repeat it.) 

For your church, what would “perfect” worship look like? What do you personally hope for in congregational worship life?  How do you project your personal prayer life into the future?

*The word enthusiasm has its origins in Greek (en-theos, or having God within).

1 comment:

Thanks for joining in the conversation!