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We don’t live in a world that appreciates wonder. Sure, when we’re children the world is full of wonder. That sense of wonder is gradually squeezed from our lives. Once we enter the workplace, wonder is out of place. The workplace is a place of information and competence. Surprises are not valued. Bosses don’t want us just staring at something. Peterson observes, “We are trained and then paid to know what we are doing.”

“The opening scene in the resurrection of Jesus occurs in the workplace. Mary Magdalene and the other women were on their way to work when they encountered and embraced the resurrection of Jesus.”

Peterson then asks, “So how do we who work for a living and so spend a huge hunk of our time each week in a workplace that is unfriendly to wonder, cultivate wonder, the resurrection-wonder in which spiritual formation thrives?”

Any ideas?

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On Sunday I shared the story of Sister Lychen from Eugene Peterson. Peterson imagined a scenario in which he helped Sister Lychen discover the world in which they lived. Worship ceased to be a rehearsal of anticipation of the future glory. Worship became an interaction between the present and the future. We appreciate God’s creation in which we live.

Peterson writes, “Worship is the primary means for forming us as participants in God’s work, but if the blinds are drawn while we wait for Sunday, we aren’t in touch with the work that God is actually doing. When we walk out of the place of worship, we walk with fresh, recognizing eyes and a re-created obedient heart into the world in which we are God’s image participating in God’s creation work.”

So, did you visit the park? Do you throw open the blinds and appreciate God’s creation? Do you notice God’s “crowning touch,” humans — male and female?

I’d like to go on a tangent today. It’s not completely off. Yesterday I wrote about how people sometimes complain about worship and that complaining continues after the assembly. After the worship assembly people sometimes go out to eat.

A couple weeks ago, I went out to lunch with a group of minsters here in Greenville. One of the ministers had been to the same restaurant the previous Sunday and visited with the manager. The manager was talking about how difficult it was to get people to work on Sundays. Now you’d think it was because all the waitstaff wanted to be in church. But no! The waitstaff didn’t want to work on Sunday because they didn’t want to wait on the Christians.

Christians have a reputation of being overly critical, difficult, and cheap diners. How is that for being a witness to Christ?

How are you a dining out? Do you think people recognize you as Christians? What kind of type do you leave? How might you be a better witness for Christ?

How easy it is to get critical! Even in church.

I didn’t like the songs.
I didn’t like the sermon.
The building was too cold.
The building was too hot.

We need to remember that true worship is about our attending to God. We come to praise and adore. We come to offer ourselves to the one true God and remind ourselves that worship is not about me or you; it’s about God.

“Worship is not something we experience, it is something we do.”
— Eugene Peterson

Worship is a discipline. Not every Sunday is the exciting, unbelievable, life-altering experience that we would like. But we need to remember that worship isn’t all about us. We are there, primarily, to maintain our relationship with God. Worship should be a time or adoration. A lot of that depends on what we bring to the table. Are we expecting others to maintain our relationship God? Are we coming with an attitude of worship? How are we approaching God each week?

In this week’s sermon, I briefly touched on the topic of emotion in worship. In discussing the experience, I cautioned against merely seeking some special experience week after week (and generally hopping from church to church as you search). But what about the other extreme?

Traci and I once attended a congregation where every week was like being at a funeral. The atmosphere was subdued. The singing slow and measured. The mood was somber. They certainly subscribed to the passage “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40, KJV) and they certainly knew what that meant (at least to them).

“Worship is serious business. Don’t get excited and certainly don’t laugh. Worshipping God is no joke.” But is that what this passage really about? I don’t think so. Yes, we shouldn’t be frivolous in our worship. But is frivolity really equated with passion.

I remember other instances of being rebuked in worship settings. One retreat speaker called down our campus group for clapping during the singing. (That was not his assigned topic.) Another minister (at another time) rebuked us for being excited while singing “I’ve been redeemed, by the blood of the lamb.” “Don’t you understand the sacrifice that Jesus made to redeem you? Don’t you know how horrific that sacrifice was? How can you be singing “I’ve been redeemed by Jesus’ blood” like that?” I suggested that it was precisely because we understood what Jesus had done that we were so excited.

1 Corinthians 14 does indicate that worship is not meant to be chaotic. But what is the place of passion and excitement in worship? Is it excluded? How do we appropriately respond to what God has done for us?

Sunday’s sermon was on 1 Kings 18 with Elijah on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to a contest to determine who is really God, Baal or Yahweh. For the sermon, I relied heavily on Eugene Peterson’s The Way of Jesus.

Peterson writes: “Baal’s altar is presided over by 450 Jezebel-hired priests. The action is theater featuring some kind of jerky, hobbling dance, the participants noisily demanding action from heaven–Fire! Rain! The gulf between people and God is leveled out of existence by means of participatory rites. The terrifying majesty of God, his ‘otherness,’ is watered down into the religious passions of the worshipers. Desires that inflame the soul are fanned by the dancing, yelling, blood-letting priests. The transcendence of the deity is reduced to the ecstasy of manipulated emotions.”

Peterson goes on to describe biblical worship. Worship is a response to God’s word in the context of the community of God’s people. Worship is not something we experience, it is something we do, “regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all. The experience develops out of the worship, not the other way around.”

When the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity early in the fourth century, the face of Christianity changed. No longer was it the small, persecuted body of believers. It eventually would become the official religion of the empire. The worship of the church underwent shifts during this time.

Christians, no longer marginalized members of society, brought their religion from the shadows into the light. Worship became more structured and formalized. The theology of the church was articulated in various creeds. The church grew rapidly.

During this time, worship also became more ceremonial. The churches continued to focus on the Word and the Sacraments (especially Lord’s Supper and Baptism). Regional styles continued to develop. Churches began using more signs and symbols.

In a similar vein, we’re not a small, persecuted church. We meet freely and openly, often advertising our meetings and activities. A large part of our tradition has been the rejection of creeds, signs, and symbols. We continue to focus on the Word and the Sacraments.

Should the ceremonial play a part in our assemblies? If so, how and how much?

Yesterday I wrote about how the early church struggled with the racial divide. But there were also problems between the classes, between rich and poor.

“So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing?” (1 Cor. 11:20-22).

The early church shared the Lord’s Supper in the context of a meal, but this evidently wasn’t a church potluck. Or, maybe it was, people just weren’t waiting for the others to get started. The rich, with leisure time, weren’t waiting for the working class to get off work before they started.

Paul called the Corinthians to remember one another in their worship, to be considerate of each other. We, too, need to remember that we’re not alone in our worship. We need to be considerate of one another.

Christianity underwent numerous changes during its first century. The first followers of Jesus were Jewish, mostly from working class families, mostly from villages. As Christianity spread across the Greco-Roman world missionaries concentrated on the urban centers. While Paul frequently found a Jewish community in these cities, they were not always the most receptive. As Paul turned to other communities, he encountered a variety of social and educational levels.

We recall the controversy over Jew and Gentile disagreement. What must one do to become a Christian? Must they become a Jew first? The early Christians answered, “No.” But many of the epistles still carried responses to this struggle.

While the worship maintained a special Jewish flavor, other elements of the Greek culture appeared. Christians referred to Jesus not only as Messiah or Christ (a Jewish idea) but also as Lord (more meaningful in the Greek context). Greek elements are also evident in their hymns. Christians adapted to communicate with their culture. How might we need to adapt to communicate more effectively?