(From the Gr. leitourgia “work of the people”) The service of God offered by the people of God in divine worship.—From the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms
On a typical Sunday morning, my focus is pulled in many directions. If I’m preaching, I prepare for worship one way. If I’m not the preacher, I prepare for worship in a different way. If someone tells me something important or asks me a question to be answered later, I ask them to follow-up with an email or a note because I likely won’t remember the conversation because my focus is scattered on a Sunday morning.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone in the congregation that they had observed me singing along with Tommy Parker (Our Contemporary Music Coordinator and these days Chief Technology Specialist) and Steve Silver (one of the talented musicians helping during this transition between organists) and they could tell how the music moved me by the way I was singing along.
They remarked that they were surprised I could sit still so well in front of the congregation. I have said for a long time that I can only do one thing at a time. I can sing or I can dance but I’m a much better singer than I am a dancer and no, I’m not going to prove that!
Singing in worship is one of my favorite things to do. It’s the “work” that I’m good at and I enjoy. I enjoy a wide variety of music. I like a variety of hymns and a variety of the songs we sing that get labeled “contemporary.” As you should know by now, because I have said it many times, I sing in worship with all that is in me, for the Sundays I can’t sing. It doesn’t happen often but there are times that I can’t sing because of a cold or even because of what is going on in my life. It is those moments that you all sing for me.
Each one of us, when we gather for worship, have come to participate in the liturgy, to do the “work of the people.” We each have our own gifts that we can share and give when we worship together. And these gifts can be very different. Some sing, some read, some pray, some smile and share hospitality, some speak their responses with enthusiasm, some share their music ability, and some bring the Word. This by no means is an exhaustive list of what we bring to worship but each one of us should be giving of ourselves and our gifts to worship on most Sundays. So that when you need the community, the community can be your voice or your prayer or whatever else you might need.
God promises to be present in our worship each week. The “work” that we do in worship is an offering. We are acknowledging all that we have received from God and returning a portion of those gifts to God. The offering prayer from the LBW always come to mind, “we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us—our selves, our time, and our possessions, signs of your gracious love.” All that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. Our worship each week is an offering given to God. This is the “work” we are called to and this is the “work” that we do together.
So next time you worship, think about whether you are giving or receiving. Is this a day that you are being present and lifting up your gifts in worship for someone who needs it or is this a day that you need the community to worship for you? At times, you can even do both in the same service. Since the beginning of COVID, we have had to adjust to changes in the way that we worship. I’m thankful that we are able to Livestream worship for those who aren’t able or ready to attend on Sunday morning. This means the “work” of our worship together looks and feels a little different. How can we strengthen the congregation even when we are scattered apart? How can we both give and receive in worship from a distance? I don’t have all the answers and I am certainly full of questions these days but I know that we are all part of this “work” together from wherever we may be worshipping.