I am starting a new series of posts called “When We Gather” in an attempt to work through some of the main ideas/values/guiding principles that (in)form our gathered times of worship. I would love you thoughts in the comments section, as much of this is a work in progress!
Being that this is the first post in this series, there can be an implicit statement of priority that follows: i.e. the first topic or value is the most important. There is a sense in which this is true here. Though important is not necessarily the best term. Think of it more like the idea of an irreducible minimum. Since the focus will be on “gathered” worship, you cannot gather unless you are more than, well, just you! This brings in the concept of relationship.
In fact, I would argue relationship is so foundational, it must be addressed even before the Scriptures, because the Scriptures were written the context of the relationship between God and his people, compiled in community, read to gathered people, and recount songs that were sung by the people of God. This can be a serious oversight that we have when reading our nicely bound Bibles today: most of the “yous” are plural; addressed to a community, or multiple communities.
But “relationship” can still be a sort of abstract term. So I will prefer a different term: family.
I know “family” brings out many different feelings and thoughts. Family can be a filling place and a draining place. It is made up of people who show love, care, and concern. It is also a place where trust has been broken, where people hurt each other, and where sometimes family members are just flat-out selfish. It is made up of those with different personalities, different goals, different beliefs, and different opinions. It’s a place of benevolence and and a place of indifference.
But it is all bound by one thing: a family belongs to itself. Sometimes, that is the only thing that keeps you together.
Sounds like church to me.
So now, get this group of people together, along with those who don’t yet belong to the family (guests), and try to get them to sing together, pray together…worship…together.
That sounds like a crazy idea. Even a naive idea.
Or maybe…it is God’s idea.
Paul’s letter to the church family in Ephesus is replete with the idea of different people belonging to the same family:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Eph 2:14-18 NIV, emphasis mine)
So this new, blended, diverse family is bound by one thing: we have the same Father because of Jesus.
When we gather as this family, what should/could our worship look like? (not rhetorical! let me know what you think!)