Why do we do What we do in Worship?
Last week I spent one week at a retreat asking the age old question…Why do we do what we do in worship? Why do we say the prayer of confession, sing hymns, and pray? What is the purpose of taking an offering, listening to sermons and participating in baptisms and communion? Basically asking the question, what is the point?
As a worship leader, I can tell you that each individual piece of liturgy is significant for a reason. For example, we sing to hear the story of our faith and say Thank You Lord. We listen to a sermon so we can hear the words of God proclaimed to us. We give our offering because we recognize all that God gives us and we respond with a gift back. I could go on, but you get the picture each piece of worship has a purpose in helping us to be in relationship with God.
But what was interesting about asking this question again while reading some of the theological greats of our tradition is what John Calvin said about the point of worship. He said that worship is a public gathering and what happens in it (the prayer of confession, sermon, prayers, sacraments etc.) concerns the whole nation. This is an intriguing point about worship because it is says that we show up to worship each Sunday not only for our relationship with God to grow or for our relationships with church family to be nourished. The point of worship is that it changes the whole world.
This seems like an unbelievable purpose, to think that our particular presence at worship this coming Sunday is going to change the world. Think about it for a second. Calvin is saying that your prayer of confession, your voice as we sing together, your prayers, your listening, responding, and giving in worship will change the world.
I have been marveling about how we changed the world because of our attendance in worship this past Sunday. Did we change the world because we chose to forgive the person were we angry at, because God chose to forgive us? Was it was when we recognized the sunset as gift from God and gave thanks. Or perhaps it was the smile and kind words given to the cashier in grocery store, the hug we gave to a friend, and the prayer we prayed when we sent our kids off at school. Or possibly it was when we heard God’s voice speaking and we were comforted, compelled and challenged to do His work. Or maybe it was the moment we listened for God’s answer to our dilemma whether small or large.
We change the world when we worship, because it is in worship that we hear God speak, we remember God’s presence and we live as God’s beloved children wherever we go. I don’t think I will ever see the simple pieces of worship the same. Thanks be to God!