Monday, May 12, 2008

... and he was a samaritan (Luke 17:16)

Simone Weil suggested that prayer is fundamentally a matter of paying attention. Paying attention is, of course, not always easy to do. Weil believed that if we developed the discipline of actually paying attention right through each petition of the Lord's Prayer, and prayed it in that way first thing each morning, it would transform us.

The Heidelberg Catechism teaches (Q&A 116) us that prayer is the most important way that we can express our thankfulness to God.

So if prayer is how we express our gratitude and thanks, and prayer is fundamentally a matter of paying attention, it should come as no surprise that we rarely give thanks unless something has first caught our attention.

Big leap .....

Lately, I've found myself in a variety of situations and conversations in which the topic has been evaluating worship. It's been quite a ride. Some have argued that worship is "ridiculous" unless it is centered on and consumed by doctrinal instruction (remember, this emerging generation has more than a few who long for the security of the old absolutes). Others claim worship is boring and "churchy" unless it offers mostly music and that music should be led by accomplished praise bands, or rising singer/songwriters (indeed, some of this emerging generation do not know any hymns for ever since they've been in church these past 20 years the only songs sung have been contemporary and up "on the screen"). Others expect worship to be limited to 65 minutes, and not a second more lest the social patterns of Sunday morning get crunched. Some desire "prophetic preaching" while others don't want to challenged so much as to be assured that they don't need to change. Nobody wants a scandal, but a little notoriety is o.k. if it brings in more members. Others want ... and on and on it goes.

In a pluralist world, who gets to decide what worship _ought_ to be like?

Here's a modest proposal.

If worship helps us to pay attention--to notice if we are known by our love (I John), to notice if we are known by our generosity (Acts 2), to notice is we are known as peaceful, gentle, kind, (Galatians 5), to notice whether or not we are "parable people" of the kingdom, etc. it is good.
If worship helps us to pray--to actually live with thanksgiving with what we have (rather than complain about the entitlements we think we deserve), it's good.

If we worshipped like this ... our Samaritan neighbors would notice. That's gospel.