Saturday, September 26, 2009

Worship as Intentional Assembly

I will reflect again on worship, as I read Brian Wren's small, but insightful study of hymns. In a chapter entitled Worship, he shares a Charles Wesley hymn that speaks of assembling in Christ's name.

Wren notes that in Wesley's hymn worship is not intended to be an escape from life, but is undertaken in the hope of hearing Christ's voice in the midst of our worldly ways -- hoping to turn away from them.

Since the point here is an examination of modern hymns, he goes on to make this statement:

For most Christians, public worship is like breakfast: essential, familiar, frequently unexciting, occasionally enlivened by tasty variations. Like many a piece of furniture, worship comes with a notice saying "Assembly required." In continuity with Wesley, ("assembled in thy name"), today's hymns assume an intentional assembly, potentially life changing to all whom God gathers in. (Wren, Hymns for Today, WJK, 2009, p. 33).

I do think there is great truth in that statement -- it can be familiar and unexciting, but do we not gather in the hope that our lives will be changed by an divine encounter?

Wren points to a hymn we just sang last week by Marty Haugen. It speaks to what we hope should happen as we gather:

Here in this place, new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away.
See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in -- the lost and forsaken,
gather us in -- the blind and the lame.
Call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise a the sound of our name.

Do we come hopeful that God will act in our lives as worship? Or has it become too familiar?


John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

The participants and the minister and the music leader need to continually strive to nurture the possibility that in each act of worship each of us may have renewed hope that God has acted, and will continue to act in our lives. Passion begets passion and enthusiasm begets enthusiasm!


Anonymous said...

It's a nice hymn. But, being continually in God's grace since I returned to community services, I come and praise in thanksgiving. Crummy things have happened since, but compared to what? David Mc

John said...

Crummy things happen. And worship brings us as a community into the presence of the one who sustains us through it all.