Accessible Worship - Let's Be Honest

Accessible Worship
Let’s be honest
“kindest possible way…”

Worship is sacred.  It is divine.  It is solemn.  Worship should be what I think is best.  Worship should be what we’ve always done.  Worship should be different.  Worship is boring.  Worship doesn’t speak to me.  Worship is what we do on Sunday.  Worship is…  Well, what is it for you?  Don’t just give the text book answer, what’s the personal one, the one you actually believe right now?

As we established earlier, worship, especially formal church worship is God’s coming to us in word and Sacrament as a gathered people around the name of Jesus.  In this gathering, as God comes to his people, his people respond to him directly in prayer, song and petition and respond to one another about God and his story of redemption and faithfulness in the form of exhortation, praise and celebration.  Yet fear, both right and wrong kinds of fear, often drive the conversations, debates, battles and wars over what is appropriate in formal worship; over what is God pleasing and what is unacceptable.  (We will discuss Fear in another blog post down the line)  It splits families, it splits schools, it splits churches and it splits synods.  Both sides dig in battle lines and find bible passages to prove their viewpoint and how the other is wrong, dying, ineffective, unimaginable and downright sinful. 

So to dig into a topic like this I want to just put out a reminder concept that so many, including Martin Luther have encouraged us to remember.  That while we acknowledge there are going to be differing stances on this topic, that as Christians we take each other’s words and actions in the kindest possible way and that we do our best to listen and understand the person before we rush to defend a position.  In the advice of many older and wiser people than me “God gave you two ears and one mouth – use them proportionally as it pertains to listening and speaking”.

So here is the basic premise for this blog series now that we have laid the foundation just a bit.  Accessible worship is the idea that we want to do everything that we can to make the peace and joy of the true law/gospel message accessible to as many people as we can in our neighborhoods, families and communities and congregations.  We don’t need to water anything down, but we need to do everything we can to clearly communicate the need for a Savior from sin, what sin is and does and that Jesus is that Savior and the bible is the testimony to God’s faithfulness and the basis for “life to the full” as Jesus himself made known to us.  We want to communicate this message in ways that the people can understand and we want to give people in public worship the ability to have a response to the Gospel message so that words, songs and prayers are personal as well as congregational.  In order to frame this topic with better insight and to move us to perhaps some better conversation regarding traditional/liturgical and contemporary/non liturgical settings, I am going to address some key divisive words to help us re-center and deepen our conversation when it comes to acceptable and agreeable forms of worship in our Lutheran settings.

I hope you’ll pray with me and hang with me long enough that God can use his word to encourage all of us who believe so strongly in the concept of Jesus Church and the formal and personal worship that happens in corporate and private settings and the tools that God has given us to share and proclaim Jesus!  There are a number of topics to get through so I ask your patience as I lay out some of these practical pieces with the hope that the various worship styles/languages/settings may all be seen as viable forms of making God’s word known while giving people a chance to respond in worship.  In other words, I hope we can all practice this advice to “take each other’s actions in the kindest possible way”.