Part of the message from our work with the Kaleidoscope Institute is that it is important for churches to focus on relating, not just doing. In a lot of our discussions, we have focused on our relationship with one another and our community. Changing our focus from check writing to building relationships by partnering with the others in our community is one example of seeking to relate on a more personal level. (See the February 16 “Checking In” article for more information.)
So we are making progress on finding ways to improve our relationships with others, but what about our all-important relationship with God? Are we “doing” church or are we opening ourselves to be in relationship with God? How does what we do in our worship services help us to find and acknowledge God’s presence in our lives?
As a member of the choir, former acolyte mom, and logistics freak, I often find myself focusing on the process of church more than the purpose of church. When the choir processes, I need to read the music, sing, and not trip on my robes. Often I don’t have enough attention left to think about the words I am singing. And yet, the music still speaks to me about God and his greatness. The penitential service and the reading of the Decalogue that we do in Lent reminds me that God wants me to love and obey him first, and that I fall pretty short of the mark a lot of the time. The Great Litany is not just a penance for the first Sunday in Lent; it is a summary of all the ways we are protected by God and it emphasizes our hope in him.
As we move through Lent into Holy Week and on to Easter, we need to pay attention to what matters in our worship. We need to allow the ceremony and the music and the words to help us understand the might and mercy of God. We need to be open to the spirit so that we may be inspired to seek and to do God’s will. Watching for mistakes, monitoring the process, or wondering if the service will ever end, are symptoms of doing church without relating to God. If you find yourself more focused on the doing, make an effort to focus on the message of the prayers and lessons instead of on how they are delivered. Try a different service to see if a different liturgy will re-focus your attention. Don’t worry about trying to be on the right page; just listen for the word of God.
Above all, relate to God by first acknowledging God’s power and how much he has done for us all. Love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And remember to walk humbly with God as Jesus walks with us, so that you may be strengthened to do his work.