Over the past three months, I [Luca] have been in a worship incubator. I've been struggling to effectively be used by the Spirit of God to lead others to respond to the gospel.
Worship isn’t merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to the lies that echo in the mountains around us.
My friend Isaac Wardell, a pastor of worship and founder of Bifrost Arts, asks whether we think of gathered worship as being more like a concert hall or a banquet hall. If it’s a concert hall, we show up as passive observers and critics, eager to have the itches of our preferences and felt needs scratched. A banquet hall, by contrast, is a communal gathering. We come hungry and in community, ready to participate and share the experience with one another.”
Worship in the local church (and the whole of the Christian life) exists between two worlds. We live in the light of the resurrection, but we live in a darkened world that awaits its fullest renewal in the return of Jesus and the restoration of all things. In the “already” of redemption and the “not yet” of consummation.”
-Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Workshop Tells the Story of the Gospel.
Over the past three months, I have been in a worship incubator. I've been privileged to work with two other elders at our church, contemplating the rhythms of grace within our worship gatherings. Within the life of our church, we gather and we scatter. When we gather together, we rehearse the glorious gospel through word and song. On our first meeting of the Liturgy Inklings, we discussed the content of the book quoted above Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel. It was written by one of the pastors of Sojourn Louisville, the church that planted Sojourn Chattanooga. If you're a pastor or involved in leading worship in any way, I highly recommend that you read it, but with one caveat - you need to read it in community, processing it with others as you read.
After reading through the book and discussing, our little group embarked on the journey of writing the gospel-rhythm liturgy for our gathered services together. While I haven't been writing on this blog, the writing of liturgy for our people at Sojourn Chattanooga has been so life-giving and challenging. Leading people through the rhythms of grace in a way that captures their imaginations and is an opportunity for the Spirit of God to stir affections for Jesus is truly a hard pastoral work. I've been grateful for these men and for the time to learn together. You can read more about the book in Ed Stetzer's interview with the author, Mike Cosper.
Liturgy helps us respond. Often, it helps us respond to things to which we may have become numb. Consider the recent Dallas shootings and those in Baton Rouge a few days prior. As a church, do you go through the motions and act like everything is okay? Do you try to compensate questions that people may be having with sugary-sweet optimism or trite, happy worship experiences? How do you lead people to respond to the grit and grime of life in a fallen world? What about right now, as we think about what is happening in Tulsa?
As a part of our liturgy, we often include either a time of confession or a time of lament. Our Pastor of Worship Arts, Alex Baxley, wrote this beautifully gut-wrenching lament after Dallas. Today, I found myself going back through it as I prayed for Tulsa and for the church of America. I pray that it is helpful to you too. I've asked Pastor Alex if I could share it with you. As you read, imagine the leader reading the first section over you. Later, when you come to the underlined portion, imagine praying that aloud with others. You may want to read that portion out loud as well.
A Lament on Racism
Father God, another week has come where we are faced with the choice to acknowledge what we often are able and all too willing to ignore. Racism, prejudice, hatred, and injustice have remained alive and well, not just in our country or in our community, but in our own hearts.
Our black neighbors - fellow image-bearers that You have crowned with glory and honor -have lived in unacceptable fear and under the weight of ungodly injustice, not just this week, not just the past few years, but have lived this way for centuries. And we mourn, Father, both because the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have been stolen, and because it has taken their murders to open many of our eyes.
We cannot say that we have been blind because they have not been the first. We cannot say that we have been innocent because we have been silent and still. We must confess that we have looked away. We must confess that we too have stripped dignity away from our black brothers and sisters, though our fingers have never pulled a trigger. We who are white have not had to fear for our lives because of the color of our skin. We have not had to teach our children how to avoid or escape being profiled. We have not had to place more faith in a cell phone camera than the Church to prove our worth.
It is not right for anyone made in Your image to have to do such things! And it is not right for anyone made in Your image to ignore those who do! You have told us that we are the light of the world, But we have only dared to carry our lights huddled together at midday, far from strangers, and far from the shadows and the darkness of this world.
You have told us that we are the salt of the earth, But what healing have we brought to the wounds of every race, tribe, and tongue? What flavor have we put on the tongues of those who taste the bitterness and gall of injustice?What have we done to make peace and preserve it?
Father God, have mercy on us. Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.
Have mercy on the family of Alton Sterling.
Have mercy on the family of Philando Castile.
Have mercy on the family Brent Thompson.
Have mercy on the family of Patrick Zamarippa.
Have mercy on the family of Michael Krol.
Have mercy on the family of Michael Smith.
Have mercy on the family of Lorne Ahrens.
Have mercy on our black and white communities.
Forgive us. Restore peace. Bind up wounds. Tear down walls. Make us one.
The Spirit and we, your Bride, say, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Until that day, change us and bring change through Your Spirit living with us, we pray. Amen."
-based on Psalm 8:5, Matthew 15:16-17, and Revelation 22:17, 20