I lead worship frequently at my home church in Muskego called "The Bridge at St. Paul's". I lead within our modern worship setting and within our contemporary setting - both are topics for another blog one day. This time I just wanted to relate a worship experience that I found to be particularly striking in how God uses his word and worship to tell the greatest story.
I am part of the worship leadership team and in the ministry team setting we do spend a decent amount of time discussing the sermon topic of the week as well as the worship service elements and songs so that we can help tell the story and give people a chance to respond to it as well. Worship in a Lutheran setting has regularly been translated to mean this: "God comes to us (word and sacrament) and his people respond (to Him and to one another about Him). We are in a bible series called "Stuck?" looking at encouragements through the book of Phillipians" and the section of scripture that day was related to Paul's reality of being stuck in prison, yet finding joy and freedom in Christ.
As I went through song selection and the worship elements of our contemporary service I choose 4 primary songs "All the People Said Amen" by Matt Maher, "Jesus Paid it All' by Kristian Stanfil, "Awake My Soul" by Chris Tomlin et al, and "Our God", by Chris Tomlin as well. Our service order looked like this:
All the People said Amen
Baptism of a 4 year old (really cool!)
Jesus Paid it All
Lesson 1 - Numbers 11: 4-17
Lesson 2 - Matthew 9: 18-26
Awake My Soul
Message "Advancing - based on Philippians 1:12-30
Usually you don't start a service with "Amen" as it's the finish and close to so many things. It means "let it be so" and I choose to start the service with an ending comment. There's a line in the song that goes "We're all broken, but we're all in this together. God knows we stumble and fall. And He so loved the world he sent his son to save us all", which is what we're really amening. As I was listening to John Backus lay out the message theme he made the great point about the Gospel message being one that releases from so many of the prisons of this life. That Jesus is the lock pick, his relationship to us by faith can unlock even the physical prisons and give us perspective to experience joy in all circumstances. And then it hit me how neat worship can be when we think it through. Forwards and backwards when it's done well, you will see worship and the encouragement we receive as well as the strengthening of faith.
For me it was looking backwards and putting the order in reverse. I was amazed at how the service order translated as I looked hard at the statements that were being made to us and that we ourselves were making. Starting backward our worship story that weekend looked like this:
"If God is for us, who can be against us? Our God, through Jesus, is the lock pick, who has awakened my soul. He has breathed life and spoken to us in his word, that we might see that Jesus Paid it All and we praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead. He did this by making me his own dear child through baptism that I might confess that I am a sinner, broken and a person who has stumbled and fallen, but God so loved the world that he sent his son to save us all - AND ALL THE PEOPLE SAID AMEN!".
Even in reverse order, what a story!