Every Sunday is unique, but most follow the same general pattern. We sing a couple of songs, say hello, make a few announcements, sing some more songs, teach for a while, and end with a song or two as we reflect on the scriptures. I love our pattern of worship at CBC, but every once in a while we stray off of our routine and have the opportunity to be a bit more creative.
Last Sunday we had one service on New Years Day, and, as a staff, felt it was a great opportunity for our creativity to flourish as we broke away from the routine. We spent our morning walking through the first eight verses of Psalm 34:
1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
If you look at the text, it’s broken up in to three sections: Celebration (vv.1-3), Perseverance and Joy (vv. 4-7), and Blessing (v.8). Our text really is about the evolution of celebration – a fitting theme for a service on New Years Day. We start with simple celebration. As life gets difficult and expectations are unmet, celebration turns to joy as we are reminded our God isn’t one who forgets and leaves, but one who rescues. And in the end, we know God paints a better picture of the future as he calls us in to a gospel of blessings. Each of the sections had a time of teaching, an action to help us express the theme, and a song to bring us back together.
Jonathan spoke on celebration, and reminded us of the importance of the present – because sometimes today’s celebration can be missed if our focus is on tomorrow. Just as the psalm begins, we approach God with celebration, or unadulterated joy, not because of what we have done but because of God's character. As followers of Christ, we are reminded of His goodness through communion. It’s not simply a somber exercise, but an act of celebration - Jesus gives life and we are reminded of it when we take the bread (with or without gluten) and dip it in some grape juice.
As we moved to verses 4-7, DLynn encouraged us to look for God’s deliverance and rescue in the unexpected places. The context of Psalm 34 is I Samuel 21, where David was delivered in a crazy (pun intended) way from the King in Gath. Take some time and read the story and maybe you’ll see God often times works outside of our expectations to bring about deliverance. We took time to write out our prayers to God as individuals or families, asking specifically for places where we need deliverance in the coming year and hoping to look for rescue in the unexpected.
I spoke on the simple beauty of blessings, which are a picture of a preferable future, and was reminded that God’s ways are good. In a culture constantly trying to tell me faith limits, isolates, and can even cause pain, I am reminded that those following His rhythm of life find happiness. He is a good God who seeks to redeem, restore, and save. In the end, the idea that God’s not done with the world yet and is building towards a better, more hopeful future is at the center of the gospel – the same one Jesus came to invite people to join. Our staff and a few church leaders took some time to read God’s blessings found in the scriptures over individuals and families, as they felt led. It was my section, so naturally I’m a bit biased, but it was my favorite part of the morning. At CBC, it was a new expression of worship, and the vulnerability of seeing people come forward only to be met with the love and hope of our leaders as they spoke God’s promises over them was the kind of thing that makes your eyes get a little watery.
In the end, we wanted to create a place where people knew they are loved by their church and by a God who paints a beautiful picture of what could be as we follow Jesus together. Ultimately, it was a Sunday where breaking from the usual routines allowed us to, as the text says, “taste and see the Lord is good.” All of the time.
May I not forget that simple, beautiful truth in the months to come and throughout 2017.