Sunday, 18 January 2015

One Side to the Other: New Beginnings and Thoughts on Worship

This morning the missal stand (which holds the big prayer book at a convenient angle from which to read on the altar) had been moved from one side of the altar to the other at StB. I noticed it as soon as I settled into my pew. 'Tis an outward and visible sign of the fact that we now have a new presider. This next stage of our journey to meet Jesus when he comes again has begun. Our new and very welcome priest, The Rev Dr Dustin Resch, now has the con. This morning he presided and preached (praught?) for the first time. It was grand. 

Keep Calm and Worship On

Here are some thoughts and discoveries about worshipping on the other side of the rood screen (supposing we had one) from that most peculiar and sometime irksome personage; the previous rector. These have been bubbling up and mouldering as Jude and I wandered at first without benefit of flock in the early months of retirement and more recently when it felt right to return to StB.

All Circumstances

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 ESV)
What we Anglicans (and Roman Catholics and most Lutherans, too) do most Sundays is celebrate Eucharist (more on that later). The word comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. As as lover, follower and worshipper of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ I ought to be able to give worshipful thanks for what God has done, is doing and will do, in all circumstances—especially on Sunday mornings at church no matter where I am, who is presiding, how loud the children are, whether or not I like the music, or denominational peculiarities, or style, or the people up front, or around me. This was impressed upon me especially during our wanderings. I was reminded that I have a job to do among God's people at worship wherever I go. My job is to apply myself to the task, or the work, in liturgical terms (the word liturgy means work of the people) allowing nothing to distract me. In all circumstances. It is my responsibility. If I let some real or imagined failing of a leader or anyone else deflect me, the devil wins. If something bothers me, I just have to work harder. Sure, my mind wanders. Less often than it used to, perhaps. If it does, I just catch myself and refocus on what's being said, sung and prayed. Over and over again, as necessary.

Bible Delight

I love the Bible. I love the way we hear three passages read aloud every Sunday. I believe God's written Word read out loud gradually salts us through and through so it will not return to Him empty. It will succeed in the thing for which He sent it (Isa 55.11). 

When I led worship from the other side of the rood screen, I used to encourage people to bring their Bibles to church so they could follow the readings. I thought that doing that helps us learn where things are in there. I used to feel a little impatient with people because most didn't. On this side of the screen I find myself repenting of that. I find that I don't want to read along as the passages are read, I'm enjoying listening to them. I have to concentrate. My monkey-mind can head off on tangents very easily. But I find watching the face of the reader helpful in listening deeply. I've seen some folk close their eyes to listen, but I find the watching helpful for some reason. 

I still have my Bible handy in some form in case I need to look at a phrase or a verse more closely and I think daily Bible reading in the context of The Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer) is important to help keep my faith and spiritual self alive, but Sunday listening has been the thing for me—somewhat to my surprise.

Worship in Song

Sometimes when I don't know a song I'm tempted to zone out and wait until it's over. But if All Circumstances above is valid, there are several ways I can be a part of the worship at all times. For example: 
  1. I can silently pray the lyrics as those who know the song sing
  2. I can harmonize by quietly singing or reciting appropriate Bible verses, for example, "How glorious you are, more majestic than the everlasting mountains!" (Ps 76.4) or "Be exalted O Lord above the heavens, let your glory be over all the earth!" (Ps 57.11) or I can pray "Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end!" Watch for verses you can use in this way in your daily Bible reading. 
  3. I can harmonize by singing in the Spirit as I pray in tongues (1 Cor 12.10) if I have that gift.
There is no reason why I should allow myself to be left out of the worship whether I know the song or not or how well it is led.

Making Eucharist

I love the drama of the Lord's Table. The story of our salvation is told Sunday after Sunday. The bread and the wine are presented, prepared and prayed over. The Lord is remembered until he comes again. I enjoyed presiding, but I also now love being a part of the parade of humanity that goes up to receive what Jesus has provided; old and young, male and female, all shapes and sizes, Sunday by Sunday; we approach, receive and return; a graceful altar call and response. I miss it whenever we're away, but I can still worship when I put my mind to it. 

The most important thing is that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is worshipped and enjoyed in the power of the Holy Spirit no matter what and in all circumstances. 

It is SO good to be home.