2012-05-17

Worship

I return to the question: What are we here for? Or (for those who object to prepositions at the the end): For what are we here? That is, for what do we come to a worship service?

Well, we come in order to worship. OK. And what does that mean?

Coming to worship is different from coming to watch a performance. Ruth Lewis (the Music Minister at the UU Fellowship of Gainesville) and I are not performers. The worship associate for the day, the soloist singer, the rest of the choir: none of us are performers. We are co-liturgists. And "liturgy," as you'll remember, means "the work of the people." It is your work. It is, as my colleague Rev. Abhi Janamanchi put it when he was our guest preacher here in Gainesville last October: the work of “uniting together in mind, body, and spirit with a larger reality that is known and unknown by many names.”

We can’t make it happen, sometimes it doesn’t happen, and if it does happen, it’s a kind of accident. Worship is for the work of trying to be a little more accident-prone. It is, as Abhi also said, for
“witnessing to the creativity which can evolve from the inevitable tension between the individual voice and the group which gives it resonance and depth. And we gather to witness to the presence of the depth of being which expands, renews, and reinvigorates us to encounter levels of reality not [noticed] in our day-to-day lives.”
You’re not here to take in a show. You didn’t pay your money for your ticket to a show that you expect to be able to watch in undisturbed peace. If that is your expectation then allow me to upset that expectation.

Worship is a communal act. It’s the people around you, not the people up here on the chancel, that matter most. That’s why I call it a chancel, not a stage. The people around you cannot be a distraction FROM the worship, because the people around you ARE the worship. They might distract you from my sermon, they might distract you from the choir's anthem, they might distract you from writing your check for the offertory, but they cannot distract you from the worship because the people around you in this space made sacred by our intention that it be so -- they ARE the worship.

Worship, after all, means "worth-scrippen": worth ascribing. It means ascribing worth – taking this time from our week to remember what is really and truly of worth in this life – to ascribe and inscribe it in our hearts and memories to fortify us for the week ahead. And if the people around you aren’t of worth, then all I can say is that’s one mighty big gator you’re wrestling. If the people around you, children, young adult, middle-aged, or senescent, are not of worth, then all I can say is, "So sorry about your bad luck!"

So: in that moment – that moment when annoyance is flashing across your brain because somebody else is STILL shuffling her papers, or whispering too loudly, or clapping, or shouting back “Amen” – in that moment, THAT is your invitation to the opening of your heart to love and the opening of your mind to peace, THAT is the accident that was waiting to happen to show you a glimpse of a new possibility for connection. In that moment, THAT is your worship, that is the worth to ascribe in your heart, not my carefully crafted sermon, not the choir’s carefully rehearsed and lovingly offered spiritual music.

And, by the way, just FYI: studies of noise in church sanctuaries when children and adults are both present, show over and over that it is the adults who make most of the noise.

I really really would like to say that there is one exception. I want to say that one thing that is a distraction and is not itself the suddenly surprising breaking through of transcendence, the one thing that really is simply a despicable and unworthy annoyance is:

Cell phones going off.

Well, I can recognize that that’s my gator to wrestle, while still hoping you won’t be the one push me in.

No, scratch that.

We don’t get to decide what pushes us. We only get to decide whether and how to wrestle. In the end I cannot unequivocally declare that a cell phone going off can never be the sound in worship that will jolt you to awaken to a wider awareness of love.

We don't get to decide what pushes us. We only get to decide whether and how to wrestle. How are your decisions about that working out for you?

I’ve done some gator wrestling. Let me know if I can help.

Amen.

* * * * *
Part 5 of "Neurodiversity"
Previous: Part 4: "The Second Smooth Stone of Liberalism"
Beginning: Part 1: "Gator Wrestling"