What do you think is the purpose of church? Certainly Jesus never expressed an opinion on the subject of pews, or hymnals or proper orders of worship. No, His approach was far more informal:
“Wherever three are gathered in my name, there I am.”
“Do you love me? Then Feed my Sheep.”
“My kingdom is not of this world.”
Sometimes I find myself wondering what Jesus would think of the multiplicity of rituals and traditions and rules that we have made for ourselves up over the two thousand years since he walked this earth. I wonder whether he might not chuckle under his breath and say to himself, “Humans, am I right?”
And yet, at the same time, there is something deeply soothing about the rituals of our faith. The liturgy of our worship has the power to draw us closer to God, even surprises us sometimes with its ability to reveal to us fleeting images of the grace of God. The moment of communion has the power to transform us as the body of Christ becomes a part of us.
That word, liturgy, I think, is key. It is from the greek leitourgia, a word which translates as “the work for the people.” It is a reminder to us that the power of our worship is not in the words themselves, or even the order of our movement. It is in the very fact of the people with whom we share it. The person beside you, the shoulder ahead of you in the pew. It is the gift of God for the people of God. In some mysterious way, when we gather our bodies together for worship, we encounter the body of Christ in each other, and our bodies–broken, suffering, crying out for affection–need the comfort that only other bodies can provide. Our worship is a reminder that we cannot be Christians alone. We need the fellowship and peace divine that comes from gathering with people, not just the ones we would choose, or those whom we like, but everyone–the angry, the heartbroken, the joyful, the full crush of humanity that is possible every time we open our doors on Sunday.
Anyhow, that’s how I see it. And every Sunday, it breaks my heart open to learn it again, as if for the very first time.