What Happens in Worship

what happens in worship

By Pastor Paula Burchill

So I have to confess to being just a bit obsessed with the new movie A Star Is Born.  It’s so good.  The music, the acting, the story that has been re-done for the fourth time.  I loved it so much I even go online to listen to interviews from the actors Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

In one interview, Bradley Cooper was asked something about why he loves movies [he directed this movie].  He said he believes that what happens in a good movie is that the viewer is healed, questions, investigates and grows.  I think I liked what he said because to me that is what happens in a worship service.

We start our services with a time of confession.  It really is a time to be honest about our failings.  About all the things we have done or left undone, said or left unsaid.  We take that time so that we can start the service healed.  Knowing there is nothing we have to hide or that God cannot redeem in our lives.  And when we hear we are forgiven, we are healed.

We move into a time to investigate and question.  We hear the word of God from the bible and then in the sermon we ask what those words might mean for our lives.  How is God speaking to us now?  The word can challenge us or inspire us.  Some say God’s word comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

We also hear and sing music that enhances the word.  Some of the songs were written hundreds of years ago and yet the words still ring true as they help us investigate what it means to be followers of Jesus.  Some of the songs are contemporary, and as we sing together, it becomes apparent that Jesus calls us to stand side by side as we ask our questions and as we are healed.  Because that is how we grow.

To grow you need to be fed.  And we are fed at the table with Jesus’ real presence.  When we eat bread and have a sip of wine, Jesus really and truly becomes a part of our body.  He really and truly connects his life to ours so that as we grow, we are nourished and fed and loved and held by him.

I love going to a good movie.  And I know the movie is good when I think about it afterwards.  That is also probably why when I see a good movie I want others to see it too.  I hope that when we are fed in worship, it makes us want to invite others to come and share in what we have received.

But worship isn’t a movie, of course.  For one thing, we are not in an audience.  God is actually the audience for our worship.  And when you watch a movie you tend to be pretty passive.  Some people don’t even like to be made to think at movies—they just want to be entertained.

But in worship you really can’t leave unchanged.  You may not be healed, but hopefully you are on the way to healing.  And whether you are healed, you question, you investigate or you grow—or some combo of them all, you ARE met by God and you ARE joined to a community.  That is what happens in worship.


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