June 6, 2021
Pastors set their clocks and calendars based on Sundays.
Our entire week is structured around Sunday worship services.
At LCOS, it’s worship and fellowship. If one part of the morning is missing, then things don’t seem quite right … your day seems a bit off.
For regular attendees, Sunday worship either kicks off their weeks or completes it. It provides a centre to life.
Without the worship service, the week’s schedule seems to go all gullywampus … theologically speaking.
Worship orients lives for the week … and sometimes longer. It’s one of the motivations for the CEO … Christmas-Easter-only … attendees to take in the service. The season doesn’t feel right without the familiarity of a worship service.
But during the past 16 or so months, that clock and the calendar have been a bit off.
YouTube … Facebook … radio … TV … no congregational singing … no shared affirmations … no one at the rail … for some … it’s too different and too difficult to be wholly and fully embraced.
The joy is missing … or at the very least muted.
Early last week, the synod and the seminary hosted a session called “OK … now what.”
About 100 ministers, lay leaders … include some from LCOS … seminary administrators and synod leaders gathered for the two-hour session that discussed what will worship could look like as congregations come out of the pandemic and how to develop worship services that speak to a diverse community.
Bishop Mike told the virtual gathering that the waves of the pandemic that have buffeted congregations for months present an opportunity to determine what parts of worship are important and enriching and what parts can be discarded without diminishing the resonance worship holds for those in the pews and for those leading services.
The evolution of worship is not a subject that can be dealt with in a two-hour-or-so conversation, but rather it is one that will take place over the course of weeks as people discern the form of in-person services and of online offerings that will likely now be part of worship life at many congregations.
Worship cannot be given short shrift. It’s what orients our lives and the life of the church.
Approaching worship lies at the heart of Psalm 100 … one of my two favourite Psalms … probably because it urges us to make as much noise as possible.
The words “Make a joyful noise” is an invitation that we should try not to ignore … especially at a time when faith communities are experiencing a sense of disconnection.
The call for joy is not based on hype … or some superficial demonstration … the call is based on the God to whom the Psalm directs praise.
The five verses of today’s Psalm compel the faith community to participate in the joy of knowing God … of knowing a sense of belonging. The Psalm doesn’t focus on our responsibilities or on what God will do in a given situation …other than that God is a presence in our lives.
The writer of the Psalm calls on the people to enter their place of worship with shouts and songs of thanksgiving and praise. The Psalm isn’t an instruction for how to demonstrate joy or gratitude for being in God’s presence … the writer leaves that to the individual and to the faith community.
Scholar Steven Miller once wondered if Jesus … as when he stopped at local synagogues … sung today’s Psalm … praising God … as he entered the building. And, perhaps, the disciples who were accompanying him may have joined in … maybe with a little four-part harmony as the went through the door.
“Did they rediscover the presence of God as they joined their voices in praise?”
I wonder: Do we?
Even separated through pandemic restrictions … do we raise our voices in praise … so that they are joined with others … even virtually?
Today’s Psalm summons to look past such things as how worship is offered … either in-person or virtually … to look past the reality of the moment and to remember that we belong to God and that we are invited to be joyous even if the doors we are entering are virtual ones.
The Psalm calls us into an action and orients our lives toward God and toward community.
Old Testament scholar Joel LeMon discussed today’s Psalm a couple of years ago.
“Psalm 100 orients the community toward the authority of God alone.”
In short, orients us toward a life where we recognize that we belong to God … and perhaps consider what that means to each of us as individuals and to each of us as members of a community. It calls us to consider how this joy influences our relationships with one another and with the world around us.
“The ritual of praise moves through all places, from the fields to the metropolis with its complex architecture. All of these places are appropriate to worship Yahweh, for God is king everywhere.
“In a time when Christian communities are increasingly fractured and contentious, it is difficult to imagine a throng of faithful witnesses moving together as one in praise to God. It is precisely at this difficult time, however, when Old One Hundredth should come to our lips.”
It is precisely at this difficult time, however, when Old One Hundredth should come to our lips.”
LeMon wrote this before the pandemic was even a glimmer of a possibility.
But as we remain socially distant and within the bubbles that we’ve established, perhaps it is exactly the time when we should consider how we enter the temple … whether they are composed digitally with cameras and software or they are composed of bricks and mortar.
Do we enter in silence … or do we enter with shouts of thanksgiving … praising a God who is ever with us … comforting … healing … whose gift of grace is an act of love that didn’t diminish because we worshipped in our bubbles or because the form of worship changed for a few months.
Do we shout with the joy of a life oriented with God?
I pray that we do…