Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Theology of Worship

It seems early in my theological education to be asked to write a theology of worship, but I suppose you have to start sometime in order to start making mistakes and learning from them.

Here is the intro to mine:

When I consider my theology of worship, I must begin with the first description of worship that fully resonated with me. It was a poem by Emily Dickinson that I first read in my youth in which she celebrates the grandeur of God that extends well beyond the Sunday morning worship service.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.

Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.

God preaches – a noted clergyman,
And the sermon is never long;
So, instead of getting to heaven at last,
I’m going all along.

These words still resonate with me. God and God’s creation and God’s grace through Jesus are so much more than church worship. As Solomon prayed to God in dedicating the first Temple in Jerusalem: “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built.” (1 Kings 8:27) But if this were my only view of worship, I would not be a candidate for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.

Worship cannot begin to contain God, but worship itself is an amazing act of creation. At its best, worship is a communal act of creation. We come together in community to acknowledge the wonder and presence of God in our lives and in our world. We bring all that we are and all the ways that we have experienced both God and grace into a community of worship and we celebrate and give thanks in prayer and praise and proclamation and renew and revive ourselves in the grace extended through communion.

Each act of worship exists in a specific sacred space and time and then it is gone, transformed into energy and blessing and hope in the lives the community. We don’t worship to be with God; God is always with us. We worship to celebrate that divine presence incarnate in our world and in our lives. We do so through word and song and prayer and sacrament, and we do so in community.

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