Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.
Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.
I went to worship the other day and was called to worship with these words: “It’s a beautiful day, so let’s worship God.”
Now let’s just look at that theology for a moment. We’re here to worship . . . because of the weather. (All this time I thought it was God!) So if it’s raining, I shouldn’t go to worship? If there’s a veritable typhoon, I should just give up on God altogether, I guess.
No wonder we only have sunshine Christians whose faith can’t stand when the rains come and the winds beat down upon them.
I know, I know. It's just a call to worship. Or is it? Whatever happened to a grand, glorious call to worship by the One who made the heavens and the earth, the One who submitted to torture on a cross so that we could know, in Holy Spirit, that the Maker of the Universe wants to be in communion with us? The sweep of awesome Mystery and Presence is now under baked goods in the fellowship hall in some calls to worship: “We’re thankful for the coffee and donuts and spread of cookies we just shared. So let’s worship God.” I shudder to think what might happen if Myrtle accidentally uses salt instead of sugar in her fellowship cookies. The theological outcome for that call to worship would basically be that if God provided those cookies, the Lord is not worthy of praise.
So what is a good call to worship? One that announces the grand, glorious goodness of God. It should ring out like an announcement that comes over our media news: something's happening that makes us want to grab our coat and run to see what’s going on. The call to worship basically says that God is in the house. Our proper response is the wild abandon of praise. Shouldn’t we whoop and holler like fans at a football game when their team comes onto the field at the announcement that the Lord has done great things?
My favorite call to worship is the Easter cry, “The Lord is risen!” with the cheer that goes up afterward: “He is risen indeed!” followed by a rousing good hymn. Here’s one for Christmas: "Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy, which is for all people: Unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord. O come, let us adore him!"
Sunshine and cookies don’t have quite the same effect for me as God in the flesh. That's why I'm in worship.
Of course not every day is as exciting as Christmas and Easter, you may say. So what are some good “normal” calls to worship and what do they consist of? In looking back through old worship books, it seems that good calls to worship are scriptural and responsive, saying something of the nature of God that makes us want to respond by entering into the divine presence with worship:
The Lord reigns.
Let the earth rejoice.
Bless the Lord.
Make the voice of God’s praise heard!
Oh, that people would praise the Lord for God’s goodness, for the wonderful works done for the children of humanity.
The Lord is good to all; God’s tender mercies are over all the divine works.
Blessed be the Lord who only does wondrous things.
Blessed be God’s glorious name forever.
Let the whole earth be filled with divine glory!
For a quiet beginning Habakkuk 2:20 is also good, especially when sung : “The Lord is in the holy temple; Let all the earth keep silence before the Holy One.” The old choral introit of this still causes a holy hush to fall over the sanctuary when sung well.
Of course, much depends upon how we’re called together as well as what’s said. For a sense of entering into the magnificent presence of God, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnbfwNhXSao. This may be a little over the top for some Presbyterians, and the choral introit too long so that they draw attention to themselves as much as or more than what they're singing about, but there’s a sense that something amazing is going to happen with this call to worship, and a lot of that has to do with the way in which the opening scriptures are read and the way the congregation is caught up in the middle of the powerful play between the pulpit and the choir and fully participating with their praise.
How different than the way in which we enter casually into worship: “Well, it’s good of you to be here today. Let’s get this show on the road.” No, those are not informal words spoken before the service; that's an actual “call to worship.” Or the start of a variety show. I'm not sure which.