This Sunday in most United Methodist Churches will be the first time for a lot of new preachers and parishioners to check each other out. There’s anxiety on both sides of the chancel rail. I know that I’m feeling it! Of course this expected analysis is a bit of distraction from the true meaning of worship. In true worship we don’t idolize ministers and those who offer the Word. Preachers, liturgists, choir members, crucifers, and the like are stage hands of sorts helping the congregation honor God.
Some people think of the worship experience as one in which the clergy and choir are the actors and the congregants are the audience. This kind of thinking hardly identifies God as the primary focus of the service. We’ve denigrated worship to questions about whether the speaker is eloquent and the parishioner is somehow “fed” by the message. True worship, however, knows that God is the only audience worth pleasing and the congregation is the troupe of actors. In true worship the people behind the chancel are the cue card holders that facilitate the actors/congregation in rightly worshipping God.
True worship isn’t about score carding the sermon or music, but using both as vehicles to let God know just how much we trust and attribute all worth and praise to our great Deliverer. In simple terms, worship isn’t about us! It’s about God! Our trials and tribulations are lessened all the more as God is lifted up as the True Audience! Therefore, as it says in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This begs the question for my first Sunday and every Sunday thereafter: Will my words and deeds lift Jesus up? Will people glorify God more or less because of my worship leadership? Is the service more about me or God? The questions can be answered best if the words come true that were spoken by the Greeks who approached Philip when they were seeking Jesus: “Sir,” they said, “We would like to see Jesus” (John 12:20-21). Many pulpits have these very words carved on them so that preachers can look at them before he or she stands up to speak. Yes, if people can see Jesus then we’ve had worship!
We’re all a tad bit nervous across United Methodism as we approach this first Sunday together, but everything will be fine if we please the Lord. Therefore, my prayer is that everything we do will please and honor God. So no matter whether you are a new pastor or an inquisitive parishioner, let’s focus on the Lord and the future will be bright!
In my nervous anticipation I was inspired last night by a video Cindy shared with me of a young lady with her own fears and trepidation. Give a listen and praise the Lord – Hallelujah! Everything is going to be alright!