During worship this past Sunday I testified to the fact that I love and am amazed by the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. As has been the case in far too many instances than I can count, when an issue or situation in the world needs to be responded to in worship, the Holy Spirit has made it happen. “Our regularly scheduled programming” as television networks say, have consistently provided the worshipful response to even the most challenging issues.
This time, in the shadow of terror, I believe that the Holy Spirit spoke deeply to our needs. One of the great blessings we have developed in our staff is that we push each other to prepare as many of the aspects of worship in advance. In order to give ourselves the appropriate time to rehearse choral music, pick suitable hymns and make a bulletin that doesn’t distract, we like to have as much done well in advance.
Some people worry that this doesn’t allow for the freedom to change and respond to the needs of the community. Don’t get me wrong, I always reserve the right to emulate Payton Manning and call an audible at the line. Even with that reality, I have found myself for the most part not really varying from the worship we have prepared. Yes, I may find the need to incorporate more of a situation into the sermon or prayers, but I don’t think I have ever responded by pulling the plug on a text or musical selection.
This week is a great example of how the Holy Spirit leads us in worship. Our passage on hearing the shepherd’s voice was a great example of how we should respond to tragedy. I really didn’t go too far from the original message I had been working on for some time before the Boston bombings even happened. Our music also illustrated how well the Holy Spirit knows our needs. In the midst of loss and fear, “Shepherd of my Soul” was simply the best response our congregational needs. (http://listeninglab.st
“Shepherd of my soul, keeper of my heart,guardian of each step I take,
lead me, lead me, lead me in your way”
What better message could we be given by the Holy Spirit as we respond to an attack? In this song, we were given an inspired reminder of where we find our strength, guide and safety. As our worldly principalities are brought to question,we were given a sacred reminder that it is in God that we can find all of this and more. I was personally moved by the way that the Spirit of God blew through our worship in such a direct way.
Not long ago we studied Robert Schnase’s book, “The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” One of the practices was Passionate Worship.
“Worship describes those times we gather deliberately seeking to encounter God in Christ. God uses worship to transform lives, heal wounded souls, renew hope, shape decisions, provoke change, inspire compassion, and bind people to one another. The word passionate expresses an intense desire, an ardent spirit, strong feelings, and the sense of heightened importance. Congregations who practice Passionate Worship offer their utmost and highest; they expect worship to be the most important hour of the week.”
This week I want to affirm the Holy Spirit’s power to do the very work that is underlined in the passage above. We need to expect that in our worship, the Holy Spirit will not only be present, but will do something with and to us. This week I hope that you experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in our worship and that it has carried into your daily life.
Holy God, thank you for your presence as the Shepherd of our souls and guardian of each step we take. Your Holy Spirit is truly alive and at work in our lives. We thank you the we are able to gather in your name and scatter in your mission. Shepherd of our soul, lead us in your way. AMEN
It is now Thursday and I am still humming that song in my head. Though I was in an awkward spot as lay leader when I found myself more emotional than expected (we need to stash some Kleenex in the pulpit pit), it is always a blessing when one is so moved during worship.