By Justin Rossow
I distinctly remember watching the Detroit Lions play football sometime in the mid-70s on a portable black and white TV, perched on a file cabinet, “rabbit ears” extended to the sky. It must have been something like an 8-inch screen, though it didn’t seem that big.
While I could see the score and had a general idea of what was going on, there was a lot I missed. It was perhaps less than an ideal viewing experience…
It wasn’t until I was at Seminary in St. Louis that I attended my first real, live, NFL game. And even though we were in the nosebleed section, the game felt different up there. The people on the field weren’t much larger than they had been on the 8-inch screen, but the color and the sound and the surge of the crowd and the panoramic view all made that experience much more alive.
I will never forget the pass from quarterback Kurt Warner to wide receiver Isaac Bruce. These were the days of The Greatest Show on Turf, and the Rams were known for their aggressive pass offense. Heading toward the corner of the endzone where we had our perch, Bruce sprinted down the sideline and made a double move on his defender. He broke twice, in two different directions, WHILE THE BALL WAS IN THE AIR, just to catch the spiral in mid-stride as he crossed the goal line.
Unbelievable. I would have never seen how high the pass was, would never been amazed at the timing, would never have experienced the gasp and surge of the crowd if I had been sitting in front of a portable black and white TV instead of going to the game.
Something like that is going on every Sunday, not only on the gridiron, but every time we join together for worship.
Every time we worship, our liturgy intentionally retells and participates in the story of the Scriptures. Every week there is a little Christmas as we sing “Gloria!”; a little Lent as we confess our sins; a little Easter as we sing “Alleluia!”; and a little Pentecost as we hear the Word and profess the Creed.
Even in worship services where the traditional texts are not sung verbatim week-by-week, the texts and movements of Lutheran worship have their roots in the biblical narrative.
With the Invocation and Benediction, for example, we are invited to remember the key places where God’s name shows up. From the burning bush (I AM: the God of promise, the God who IS, the God who saves), to the blessing given to Moses to give to Aaron (“… so they will put my Name on them, and I will bless them.”), to the glory cloud of the presence of YHWH filling the Temple (“I have place my Name there: my eyes and my heart will always be there.”) to the Great Commission (“… baptizing in the Name…”), the story of the Scriptures informs the story of the worship.
When we show up for worship, it’s intended to be like going to the game. The sights and sounds and movement of the crowd are in full color, and you can see the complex beauty when it all comes together. What God has been in Jesus since the creation of the world, He continues to do for us every time we worship. For those who have eyes to see, worship is the place where heaven meets earth, where the story of Scripture intersects our individual stories and our story as a congregation.
Worship is a full-bodied engagement with the narrative of the Bible. But so often, we end up experiencing the black and white, “rabbit-eared,” 8-inch screen version of the game
In a culture that tends to be biblically illiterate, singing “Lamb of God,” or “Hosanna,” or “Holy, Holy, Holy,” does not necessarily resonate with Passover or Palm Sunday or Isaiah 6; so we often lose the layers of connection points intended by the historic Church. Believers chose to sing those particular texts during the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper on purpose.
Our experience of worship is often narrowed to a flattened version of what’s in front of us on any given Sunday, instead of each move in worship resonating with the broader story of salvation. We say the words without them striking a deeper chord; we participate in the actions without seeing the bigger drama; we sing the songs without recognizing the echo of saints and angels as they sing along.
We watch the game through a narrow lens that prevents us from seeing the amazing, gasping at the beautiful, cheering with the crowd.
But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
The rich narrative network of the Bible is interwoven with the narrative of the worship service on purpose. The images and metaphors that hold the salvation story together expand our experience of worship beyond this one moment in time. We were never meant to watch from a distance; we’re supposed to even get on the field and join the game.
Here at St. Luke, we want to help people take a next step in following Jesus. This fall, the focus of that next step is the Vibrant Worship series. In Sunday worship, Sunday School for all ages, and Home Group materials, we are going to explore the connection between the stories and images of Scripture and the kinds of things we do week after week in worship.
The goal is a deeper appreciation for what Jesus is doing for us any given Sunday, and how that going-to-the-game worship plays out in the rest of the week.
This fall, you can expect to see a more visually rich context for worship that captures the narratives and metaphors of scripture. You can expect sermons and songs and take-home discussion questions that relate our worship here and now with something much bigger. You can expect a relentless focus on Jesus and His work, and an invitation to worship more intentionally not only on Sunday morning, but as you live out a life of worship Monday through Saturday.
Instead of experiencing worship as a football game on black-and-white, 8-inch screen, you can expect to be taken to the game.
The Vibrant Worship series starts September 18, 2016. Don’t miss it!
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