Worship Is

The Rev. Robert A. Franek

(from the May-June 2015 issue of Making Christ Known)

Worship is from the beginning the Church’s primary faith practice. A people gathered by the Holy Spirit around word and sacrament on the Lord’s Day giving thanks and praise for resurrection of Jesus Christ is the church’s primary activity. Everything in the baptismal life flows from the sending of the assembly from this gathering around the central things of faith: word and sacrament. In fact, it may even be said that everything that happens in worship is for the sake of being sent out to be the body of Christ in and for the life of the world.

Worship is a fully-embodied and sensorial experience. It is filled with speaking, singing, washing, anointing, eating, drinking, and blessing, and yet also silence and stillness for reflecting on and listening to the Holy in our midst. All our senses are stimulated in the act of worship, though personally I wish we made more room for smell through the use of incense as a means of honoring Christ’s presence in the word and the meal and the gathered assembly. Nevertheless, faith comes through hearing as Paul writes, and with the Psalmist we taste and see that the Lord is good. And with our bodies we enact the liturgy: standing, sitting, kneeling, walking, crossing, and bowing. We use many postures for prayer and practice many patterns for sharing Christ’s peace in a act of ritual reconciliation before moving to the meal.

Worship is our weekly immersion in rehearsing life according to God’s reign of justice and peace. The Holy Spirit’s gathering of the Pentecost people that we are is itself a witness to the alternative community we are as the called and sent people of God. Where else is such a diverse people gathered? Here around the central things shaped by intercession and thanksgiving we are neighbor to one another that we may be neighbor to all people and the whole creation. A book, a story, a person calls us to find abundant life by giving our lives away. A meal of bread and wine, ordinary food and celebratory drink, the body and blood of the crucified and risen one given from his own wounded hand, teach us an economy of abundance and enough. baptism-photo-by-Sophie-RogersA pool of water, a cleansing bath, the font of death and new life, unites us to a community that that transcends time and place and gives us the only identity that ever matters, child of God, and it is permanent. Born anew as children of God in the holy and living waters of baptism we are re-membered to one another around the table of our Lord Jesus Christ who with his own body and blood makes us again his body for the life of the world.

Worship is the foundation of all our faith practices. Through our worship we learn to pray for ourselves, our neighbors including our enemies, and the whole of creation. Through our worship we learn to give generously and sacrificially as the practice of our offering is rooted in caring for the poor in the world. The scriptures demand our study and our discipleship in daily life. And could it be that gathering on the Lord’s Day, the Eighth Day, the day in time that stands for time beyond time to celebrate the paschal mystery of life coming out of death is so central to who we are as the baptized people of God we wouldn’t want to miss it for anything and may even invite someone else to come and see what worship is – a transformative encounter with the holy and with us always God.