When we come to worship and find that there is something that doesn't speak to us, doesn't reveal God to us and may even annoy us, we have to remember that what is bothering us may very well be blessing the person sitting next to us. And who are we to take away that blessing?
Worship happens when and where the curtains that are closing us off from the Holy One are torn in two. Celtic Christians had a name for special places of divine encounter. They called them "thin places." They had a saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even smaller.
Now both of these stories say the same thing: first the healing, then the worship. And it makes me wonder whether we in the church don't have everything backwards. We have always tried to get people to come to worship so that they can experience God's healing, when the Bible suggests that it really happens the other way around. People have to encounter God before they can worship God. We have to experience healing on some level in our lives before we can praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
So before we think about what worship could be or should be for us or for anyone else, we'd better think about what worship could be and should be for God. Every preacher, singer, instrument player, or scripture reader has to keep this crucial fact in mind: when we worship, you folks in the pews are the ones who are worshiping, not just those of us who stand on the stage. You are not our audience; God is your audience.
There you have it: the four elements of worship that we have to be careful to include in every worship service. As you can imagine, that leaves a lot of room for trying new things, because there are a thousand ways to include them. For those who are nervous about change, rest assured that we are committed to going back to the heart of worship, back to the foundation stones or our communal life together: the teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers. And before we pray, we're going to sing the song, Heart of Worship.