On this Labor Day, I woke up thinking about the work that we do, Sabbath rest and how they come together in the sacred act of worship. Now that I have completed the second series of sermons that I have preached at St. James, I am beginning to gain a sense of what worship is to you, and I hope that you are feeling as good about our worship life together as I am.
A common translation of the Greek term liturgy is the work of the people, but, in my mind, work is a charged description. For some, work may simply be means to an end and is done grudgingly. Personally, I believe in the often-given advice that if we choose (or feel called to do) a job that we love, then we will never work a day in our lives.
Furthermore, I agree with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who says that, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe to be great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Worship is work insofar as it is a spiritual discipline that centers on God and on the extent to which God’s grace in Jesus Christ surrounds us. Like work, worship calls for commitment, creativity and follow through. Also, like work, it is sad when worship is reduced to means to an end or feels more like a prison sentence than a source of serenity.
The tone of worship, like the ebb and flow of life itself, is constantly shifting, and we most clearly see this phenomenon in the Prayers of the People. As we share our joys and concerns with each other, we may go from laughter to tears in the blink of an eye.
Sincere worship has integrity regardless of how well a service goes. At the same time, I feel that God, who is ultimately audience of worship, deserves our best, and our best includes maintaining a sense of humor and forgiving one another as Christ forgives us.
On the one hand, worship is the work of the people. On the other hand, since worship usually happens on Sundays, it is supposed to be Sabbath rest, too. How do we work and rest at the same time? By loving what we do and the God for whom we do it.
Worship at St. James is as upbeat and heartfelt as any worship service that I have experienced or in which I have participated. I appreciate the vitality and sense of humor that each of you brings to the experience. I love the fact that you are open to experimenting with liturgical forms while honoring traditions. I feel recharged after worshiping with you.
Recently, I discovered that you do a wonderful job illustrating my sermons, and I am thrilled to welcome you into the process, because when only one person in a congregation illustrates the sermons (i.e. the preacher), too many stories, really good and useful stories, go untold.
Next Sunday, we will be experimenting again with a liturgy in an outdoor service that has been in the works for a while now. In the beginning of the service, I will distribute parts of the service to the people whom God gathers there. Then, we will respond to God and to each other as the service unfolds. Such services require a lot of planning, but they are a lot of fun, too.
This service is aptly called worship, which glorifies God and inspires actions on behalf of the common good.
Happy Labor Day!