Saturday, May 28, 2022

CN | Gathering to Anticipate the Artistry of What's Next

"Baptized When the Levees Broke" by Brandan "Bmike" Odums

Looking Forward to Meeting & Marking More Moments 

The gift of a Sabbath gathering for people who follow Jesus is an invitation from God to come together to rest in what Jesus has done, and then go with the Spirit to work for the glory of God, for the good of others, and for the life of the world. 

I think José Humphreys wonderfully captures the treasure of this invitation in his book, Seeing Jesus ... What Happens When Churches Show Up and Stay Put. Humphreys describes the wonder of the liturgy of the people when we worship Jesus together, becoming more like Him along the way. Below are some adapted excerpts with Humphreys thoughtful voice and considerations on display.

Let's Meet with the Church Again: Marking Moments with God Together

Street artists become curators of the particular life of the neighborhood, while also telling a more universal story of pain and the need for hope and healing ... Graffiti can be a form of public liturgy this way, allowing communities to process life and make meaning. It's a way of marking moments lest we rush them by ... 

What if church liturgy were somehow connected to our social reality this way? Liturgy shapes the work of the people, expressing the work of God in the moments of life as they happen. We get to tell stories about the mundane or monumental moments of every day, in ways that honor these moments, giving us a glimpse of God's work in our midst. Paul once shared an intimate message with the church in Corinth this way: "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone" (2 Corinthians 3:2). Jesus' Church makes its own moments, sprays into existence its own mural through its Sabbath gathering, leaving letters and stories on the walls of people's hearts. ... 

Our moments in life can either be fleeting or point to the reality of the divine in the world. Church space therefore can be used to help people mark the "on-the-way" nature of life. We can foster a rhythm where identities are affirmed and can become conformed to the life and image of Christ – with His Church.

There's no community with more opportunity than a local church to interpret and curate the changing moments of life. We go through life's beginnings, middles, and ends often unaware that a story is unfolding. And a life that is fleeting has meaning only when enfolded within God's greater purposes for our lives. Joining in a local church's liturgy can actually serve an inspired role in providing compass points to help us stop, reflect on, and anchor people in God's work in the world. People can find themselves in the story of God's work at any given moment in time.

I count myself among the many who have unfortunately downplayed the role of the Sabbath gathering. I've heard all the critiques: "We should be the Church and not have church." "We need to get out of the four walls" ... What can one hour and a half (three hours if you're Pentecostal) possibly be in the life of a community?

I realize that Sabbath gatherings are an opportunity to paint murals together on the walls of our collective hearts. 
+ We invite new commitments and allegiances to Christ. 
+ We provide spaces for reaffirmation of our calling to follow Him.
+ We baptize people into the body of Christ, His Church. 
+ We help to affirm the covenant of singleness. 
+ We walk people through marriage vows. 
+ We sprinkle babies through baptisms. 
+ We honor those called to join the local church. 
+ We honor those who have served our church and are called out to another. 
+ We set up. We tear down. 
+ We grieve pain, even sharing in one another's burdens. 
Our formation is highly dependent on how we honor the fleeting moments of life. Transitions are a way of seeing God's work in our reality. Our holy task with others, as Dr. Erica Brown writes, is to "sanctify our time, not merely pass it." God's invitation into the holy rhythms of time and life in the local church allows our collective life together to be imbued with divinity from week to week. 
We can facilitate how people are to encounter and interpret moments in life in light of Scripture. From past and future moments to moments happening in real time, we discover the sacred, with an invitation to cast off our shoes while standing on holy ground. We name and identify the sacred because much of our life is lived "on the way." 

By way of every worship rehearsal, set up and tear down, and fleeting sermon we display tiny fragments of God's grander love. With every bulletin handed graciously, with ever grace-filled gaze, truly seeing the people who enter our doors, our simple encounter marks moments.

We corporately create opportunities, witnessing signs and wonders of the Kingdom, huddling then breaking after a benediction, bringing a new reality to bear on the world. If our local church's liturgia (liturgy) and our rituals are connected to the pulse of the world, it can even help people learn "God talk," which can shape godly thinking within the encounters of everyday life.

High or low church liturgy and ritual can be formative and meaning making. If this is true, Sabbath gatherings as a ritual space ought to be infused with vitality, urgency, and necessity. There's a mutuality in ritual as we interact with the divine. 

A good church service of worship can string together fragmented, seemingly meaningless pieces of life in the world, crafting them into coherence by way of entering God's larger narrative. This is the power of liturgy at work. What we create and reflect on with a local church can permeate its way out in the world. It also shapes a new identity as God's children joined together are formed over time, rhythm, and space. This is what we churches do fifty-two Sundays per year: we disciple others into honoring; we give moments their due gravity. ... We hold a story too valuable, a Gospel that is too good not to proclaim, a Gospel that reorders our sense of time and place. This allows us to find ourselves held in the story of God's love and grace, where we have meaning and receive healing in Christ

+ "Let's Have Church Again" edited excerpts from
 José Humphreys' Seeing Jesus ... What Happens When Churches Show Up and Stay Put, pgs. 176-191

With presence, peace, and many blessings,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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