Last night at our Session meeting I brought up the fact that I am highly thankful for the level of participation in worship this summer. One area of struggle I have had since arriving at Christ Presbyterian was the fact that in many ways it has felt like the church went into hiatus over the summer.
This year I have felt a different reality emerge. This summer, I have been consistently pleased when I look out at the congregation on Sunday morning. We have held at an average of 100 people in worship; even on a weekend like the Fourth of July our pews have been full. I will be the first to point out that numbers are less important than Spiritual growth. That’s what makes me so excited about our current situation. I believe that this is a testimony to the fact that our members are taking serious the need and desire for connection with God and each other. I think that it also speaks to how we, as a congregation, are perceiving our worship.
Worship is a central part of our congregational life and we have worked hard to make it a passionate and awe-filled interaction with God. Along with the high level of participation, I also believe we have been blessed by members offering their gifts in worship like never before. The soloists, ensembles and instrumentalists have all made significant contributions to the ministry of worship. While some of this is due to the proactive work of Barbara Stefan, our music director, it also speaks to a level of safety and comfort we have fostered in our worship.
As a pastor I have been blessed to lead worship in settings and situatio
ns that run the gamut. I have preached aboard a Navy Cruiser, along a hiking trail, in cemeteries and of course sanctuaries. I have always been amazed that the reality of worship has very little to do with the setting, but instead has everything to do with the Spiritual presence of Christ. This summer I have personally felt the presence of Christ in ways that have brought rich blessings. I hope that this experience has been shared by all those who have come to worship.
I think that at this point it’s critical that I point out that none of the things I have spoken of has an iota to do with me or my abilities. Granted, it helps to get people to commit to worship if I do my best to not bore them and to help with the application of the Word. Nonetheless, passionate worship is not something that I can “make” happen. It is only through our congregation’s dependence on the Spirit’s presence that we can experience the awe of God in worship.
We are in tough times. The reality of our life is that there is a great deal of uncertainty. Financial and political upheaval have led many to places of concern, if not despair. I think that this makes our worship even more critical. In a world that is in chaos, it is only in the presence of God that we find true peace and security. Reflecting each week on what God is doing in our lives and giving God glory and praise is a stark contrast to the messages we receive from secular society.
I want to personally thank each of you who have made worship a priority in your lives. I pray that you have been blessed as I have. I also want to challenge you to consider how you might share this commitment with others. Who might you invite to worship? Who should you lift up in prayer so that God might lead them to the hope of the Gospel of Christ? I believe each of you come to worship because it is life-giving and affirming. How can we share that power with others?