I just have to ask. Where is the awesomeness? More specifically, where is the awesomeness in worship these days?
A number of years ago my husband and I attended an evening Taizé* service on Christ the King Sunday at a local Catholic church. It was filled with awe. From the low lights in the sanctuary, to the beautiful icons filling the chancel and the soft glow of candles everywhere, we were awe-struck the moment we entered the sanctuary. When the service began with liturgical dancers, followed by hauntingly beautiful “spiritual jazz” (as one nun later explained it to me), we knew we were in the presence of God. We longed to experience that awesomeness in our congregation’s beautiful sanctuary.
We were given the chance a few months later. Our pastor let us shape the midweek Lenten services into Taizé services. In trying to recreate what we had experienced, we collected votives in small jars and gathered various religious items from our fellow parishioners. (We called them “items of faith” since Lutherans tend not to own religious icons.) We put together a small group of musicians and readers to lead the services.
Each week the two of us cleared the chancel and choir area up front of the unnecessary furniture and prepared for the service by setting out the candles and displaying the items of faith. After each service we put the everything safely away and replaced the furniture we’d removed. The service brought a new dimension of worship to our congregation. I think we succeeded in bringing some of the awesomeness of God into our congregation’s Lenten worship that year. For my husband and me, it also became our Lenten discipline.
Now, contrast this with what I experienced in church the other Sunday, also in the season of Lent. On that day, a group of children and their grandparents sang a song to the congregation at the beginning of worship. I don’t know the name of it, but every verse ended with the words, “Ooh. Aah. Sock it to me, Jesus.” (What is that supposed to mean, anyway?)
And so I just have to ask. Where is the awesomeness? What are we teaching our children about worship and about whom we are worshiping? Are we teaching them and showing them the awesomeness of God in our worship? Do they really know they are in the presence of our awesome God? Actually, do we really know it?
*Taizé: The style of Christian worship practised by the ecumenical Taizé community in France, characterized by the repetitive singing of simple harmonized tunes, often in various languages, interspersed with readings, prayers, and periods of silence. (definition from www.oxforddictionaries.com)
Kris Brugamyer, of Dickinson, N.D., is a member of the churchwide executive board.
Photo by Kris Brugamyer. Used with permission.