Christian worship that hasn’t happened yet.

I love worship.  If I am asked by supervisors or strangers what I love most about being a pastor and what gives me the most energy, I say worship.  I love thinking about it.  I love putting different pieces together.  I love thinking about the space and how it can be used or how the people might interact with each other and with God.  I have a deep and joyful belief that whenever I walk into a sanctuary or worship space before anyone else, usually very early in the morning, that God is already there and the Holy Spirit is already hovering over the face of our deep places that we bring with us.  However, worship is a strange beast.  There are very few hard and fast rules.  In different spaces, worship looks different, smells different, and sounds different.  Sometimes we feel close to God and close to others.  Other times, we feel lost, congested, and frustrated.

I was once told by a professor to look at Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam fresco.  mich5

She said that what happens between their two fingers is liturgy, or what we do as people in worship with God.  I grabbed onto that image and stored it away.  I could see the energy, the tension and the anticipation that comes with reaching towards God and finding a God that is already reaching towards me.  The small space between their fingers is mystery.  It’s tension and peace, vulnerability and acceptance.  It’s the very heart of worship.

Similarly, Pre-Christian Celtic spirituality provided an image that stuck with me and flavored the type of worship and Christian faith that developed in that region.  They referred to certain places and events in worship as “thin places.”  A place where the borders between heaven and earth are nearly indistinguishable and one can experience a rare closeness with God.  While my beliefs of an ever present God who lives with us and even within us pushes back on this idea to a degree, I feel that most people might have a sense of what these early Celts were talking about.  Most people have a particular space or time when they felt a little closer to the divine than normal.  Somewhere it was easier to think, easier to pray, or easier to listen.  There is something about that space between the fingers.  There is something about the thin places in our lives.

So, the question becomes how do we create thin places, if they’re able to be created at all? Do we just stumble upon them?  Is there a secret formula or script that must be followed or recited precisely in order for God to respond?  How, like the painting of Adam, do we stretch out our fingers more for the touch of God?  How do we worship and who is there in worship with us?  We’ve gotten very good at providing answers to the question, but I am not sure if we’ve made nearly as much progress satisfying the question.

There might be an image or experience that comes to our mind when we picture or think about a worship service or act of worship.  After rolling that image around in our heads for a minute and coming up with some idea or image, I am interested now in what we’re not thinking about.  What is the worship that we haven’t thought of yet and haven’t experienced yet?  Are there walls or buildings?  Is there music?  What is the work of the people?  What does prayer look like, sound like, and smell like?  I don’t want to come across as dismissive.  “Think of what is meaningful to you.  Now, let’s just push all of this aside and start all over!”  Rather, I want to jump in the deep and murky waters because I believe God hovers over them as well.  I want to think about how we can be more involved in people making connections and stories with God and each other in Spirit and Truth.  I want to know how people are making connections and stories outside of the Church and why they don’t need or expect worship or churches to be a part of their story.

I want to see God more and I believe that worship can be deeper and wider than what we’ve seen so far.  I want to hear how God is moving in ways that I didn’t consider or believe at first.  I want to hear about how prayers are being answered and lives are being changed in ways that were never thought possible.  If everyone brings their experience and revelation of God to worship and adds their faith story to the story of the faith community then we, in a sense, are never complete as long as people are missing and uninvited.  Our voice is never whole and our prayers are never fully complete.  How can we help make more thin places and how can the space between our fingers become more alive with a spark of creative life.