Way of Love– Worship
We are currently in the midst of a preaching series on the “Way of Love”. The “Way of Love” was introduced at General Convention in 2018 and is a way for us to prepare ourselves for the evangelism work we are called to as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement. We have heard from Paul about how we Turn and choose to follow Jesus every day and we have heard from Cortney about how we daily learn about Jesus’ life and teachings and reflect on Scripture. Today, I have the pleasure of talking to you about worship and what that looks like.
I want you to think about the word “worship”. What images come to mind when you think of worship? Is it this space on Sunday mornings? Is it the parish you grew up in? Maybe, it’s not even an image of a church building...
In September of 2016, The Episcopal Church released a video. Some of you may have seen it on Facebook. It was all over the place and currently has over 177 thousand views. I know that I personally shared it. It shows our wonderful Presiding Bishop walking the streets of New York City. He is speaking about the Jesus Movement, but he gives us this wonderful visual of the church in worship. Before the Gospel is read, we stand and sing. As the Gospel is processed down the center of the aisle and as it passes our pew, we turn and orient ourselves to hear the word. We hear the Gospel read from the center of our parish. It is such a beautiful visual of our worship and something we all see every Sunday. We experience it.
In our Gospel reading from Luke, we hear of Jesus returning to Nazareth where he had been brought up and going to the synagogue on the Sabbath...AS WAS HIS CUSTOM. For us, that is our custom on Sunday mornings, or maybe on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. To gather in intentional community.
When we look at the Episcopal Church’s description of Worship in the context of “The Way of Love”, it says that we are to gather in community weekly to thank, praise and dwell with God. That “community” part is so essential to being able to live out “The Way of Love” fully.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that we hear today, it talks about the body of Christ. “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are the body of Christ. We are each members of the body of Christ and each one of us has different gifts. We have Greeters, Eucharistic Ministers, Ushers, Acolytes, Lectors, Eucharistic Visitors, Altar Guild, Choirs...and that is only a few of the people that are involved in a Sunday Morning service. Each of these ministries requires different gifts and they combine with the varied gifts of all of us sitting in the pews and listening, to make our worship what it is. Yes. You did hear me correctly. Whether you are directly involved in the worship or not, it takes all of us to make the body of Christ. Have You ever been in church and wondered where someone was or why they weren’t there? When we are missing someone from our community, it is felt.
I had the pleasure of attending the annual Forma Conference this past week. It is something that I look forward to every year. I was surrounded by fellow Christian Educators learning more about what we could do to further the Kingdom of God. They are long days at that conference going to workshops and listening to speakers and visiting with friends I haven’t seen since last year. Every time I leave that conference, I come back with a renewed energy and a reminder that I am not doing this work alone. That is the exact same feeling we have when we come together at Christ Church on a Sunday morning, when we hear the readings and sermon, receive Communion, and leave this place. We feel supported by one another, loved, and ready to be that Episcopal Branch of the the Jesus Movement. That is why worship is an important part of The Way of Love. We shouldn’t do this work alone and we are should not be expected to.
Last Sunday, I got to hide in the balcony during the Eucharist at the 11 am service. One thing that stood out to me, and I will not lie, made me a little emotional, was watching everyone receive Communion from that point of view. There is something beautiful about that view and seeing everyone as equal beloved children of God and hearing Paul and Cortney repeat to each person, “The Body of Christ...The Bread of Heaven.” Our weekly reminder that we are the Body of Christ and despite our differences and what our different gifts are, we are all called together to do the work of furthering the kingdom of God. We don’t have to do this work alone. Whatever our different gifts are, we have to encourage those in one another and support one another in our mutual work. As we leave this space today to go out into the world, to be the Body of Christ, I encourage you all to lift up and support the gifts of those you encounter.