Back when I was still going to seminary (pastor school), I found myself in church on a Sunday contemplating, “Why are we all here, doing this?” When I stepped back, I really wanted to know why all the people who were there on Sunday had come to sing, pray, read the Bible and receive the bread and wine together. Why did they do this, instead of all the other possible things that they could do on a Sunday morning?
Our theme of asking ‘Why?” continues this week.
So far our Lenten journey has taken us through “Why Faith?”, “Why Christianity?”, and “Why the Bible?”.
Now we ask,“Why Worship?”.
As we have unpacked these “why” questions in our Lenten study, we have examined why we have faith in something rather than in nothing. We looked at how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus offer a compelling experiment of God’s mercy and grace. We have seen the ways that Christ the Word is witnessed to in the pages of Scripture.
On this fourth week we start to put some of these pieces together as we contemplate why we worship.
As we have already explored, there are a whole lot of complicated reasons that bring us to church, but once we are here it isn’t always obvious to ask why we are doing this rather than that. Instead, we often default to “I like that rather than this” and congregations can fall into the dread worship wars. Strong lines of preference are drawn over music styles, worship times, service length, the frequency of communion and a host of other things that can be easy to fight about.
But they aren’t matters of “why.” Why do we come together? Why do we sing and pray and hear the Bible together? Why is that stuff important to do together in a church building rather than alone or in some other place?
And if we are honest with ourselves and each other, a lot of people are asking why it is important to take the time every week to show up at all – and they are coming to the conclusion that it isn’t important. A big part of that might be because we don’t often talk about the “why” of worship, but operate with a system that says, “It just IS important and you should all know why!”
Back on that Sunday in seminary, I wanted to know why we were all sitting in the pews for this strange worship of which we were a part. People don’t generally sing, pray and read the Bible with other folks anywhere else in their world, did they? So why did we do it here?
I have been thinking about that question ever since. While I know that there are at least as many reasons as there are people in the pews, I think it has something to do with knowing that we simply cannot do faith alone. We cannot believe it, practice it, hear it, teach it, and pass it on alone. And so God brings us together, even if is strange. Especially because it is strange and we don’t do the stuff we do in worship just about anywhere else in our lives.
If you want to really unpack this question, you will have to join us for Lenten study this week. But suffice it to say, after 15 years serving in parish ministry, I am starting to see that, despite all the weird things that we do as a part of worship, that God is up to even more incredible things with us. And that coming together for worship is one of the few ways we can begin to see and imagine what God is doing with us.