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When ye come togetherPosted Tuesday, August 2, 2011, at 9:55 AM
"How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." (I Corinthians 14.26, KJV)
In 1973, my friend Father Terry O'Shea ended his Mass with a benediction in Latin, which I did not at the time understand and do not now remember exactly. Later I asked him what the expression meant. He explained that the words "worship" and "serve" were the same word. What he was telling his people could best be rendered: "The service of worship has ended; depart to the worship of service."
Over many years I seem to have been led to observe many different traditions and teachings concerning the Christian religion. Sooner or later, in this observation, it always comes down to a liturgy -- a prescribed form or set of forms for public religious worship -- always controlled by a clergy. This is true whether Holy Roman Catholic, or "holy roller" Pentecostal. True whether, even specifically true, for those who vehemently deny being liturgical.
It has always been a source of personal amazement people will get up on Sunday morning to gather for the purpose of going through familiar, pre-determined rituals to get to the fait accompli -- the preaching of a sermon. It has always struck me this would not have been the expectations of first century Christians, who went from their "I Corinthians 14 services" to change the world.
A very wise man once told me, "You can get from God anything you want to hear."
If I go to church to enjoy the praise and worship God, that is what I will find.
If I go to church to hear a good sermon, I will get what I am willing to get.
Presumably if my attendance were to seek the solace of liturgy, I should receive succor.
But, I have been to too many places too many times. Worship is fleeting experience, great preaching comes not quite as often as sermon preaching, and liturgy leads to comfort without confronting.
It does seem to this inadequate writer of prose and blogs that when we come together it ought to be with a certain expectation of contributing.
Those who lead in the worship come expecting to serve, as do those who minister to our children, even they who take up the offering. Such are the very people who take the Christian message to the marketplace.
But, what of we who cannot sing, and certainly not preach? If I do nothing when we come together, attending only to receive ministry, what of faith will show after leaving?
For myself, and I can only speak for me, I make every effort to arrive on Sunday expecting God to use me in some small way. Most of the time this consists solely in conveying I care about some person or another, occasionally an encouraging word. It ain't much, but it's what I "hath a." When ye come together, what hath thee?
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