By Brett Younger
Pastors go to school for years (some an astonishing number of years) to learn how to preach and guide worship. Ministers of music and organists prepare extensively before leading a congregation. None of us get much guidance on how to listen and follow. There ought to be seminary courses, Sunday School classes, and newsletter columns on how to give ourselves in worship.
We know how not to worship. The worst way to go to church is as a spectator, but we have attended services as detached observers: "Don't elbow me. I was awake." It is easy to sit in a sanctuary for an hour without ever praising, praying, thanking, thinking, or feeling. Being a worship critic is easier than being a worshipper: "Let's hope the interim never reads twenty-seven verses again."
When we constantly decide what we like or dislike-"The second hymn was almost unsingable"-then worship becomes a show-and not a very exciting one: "Must we forever be cursed with Welch's?". We are tempted to take such a low view of worship that we watch only for confirmation of what we already think. When we attend worship without expecting an experience of God, we end up satisfied with a mere presentation about God. We easily forget that adding to our knowledge, even learning truths about God, isn't worship.
The only way to worship is as a participant. Worship is an active verb. True worship encompasses head, heart, and imagination. In worship we encounter God with all that we are.
Last Sunday when Gerald played Handel's Largo, many of us turned our attention to God in a way we do too seldom. Ruth prayed, "Loving God, we praise you for welcoming and accepting us as your beloved children" and we were grateful again for being God's child. During the children's sermon, Carol told the children that worship comes from the heart and we opened our hearts. Cass reminded us that worship takes action and we sat up a little straighter. We sang, "Unless this day be holy all days shall blur to one." We give our time and attention to God on Sunday morning, and God points us to the holiness of all our days.