For an Audience of One


We’re looking at scriptures related to the Building Blocks, spiritual practices we can adapt and use to “practice the presence of Christ.”  The 2018 Soul Care Plan can be completed here –> Soul Care Plan. Today’s Block is “W” for worship.

Today’s scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Keith Phillips):

When I was growing up, congregational worship was so bor-ring that I brought a book to read each Sunday at church. For me, boring is predictability in worship. Back then, I knew the order of worship by heart without ever looking at the bulletin, because it was almost chiseled in stone, never changing for years. I even knew the words each deacon would use when praying over the offering. And it seemed that we sang from only the most minuscule repertoire of hymns.

As a pastor, I never wanted worship to be predictable or taken for granted. I tried to make it different every Sunday. There would be litanies, responsive and unison readings, various ways to hear the scripture, testimonies, mission stories, and skits. The different parts of the service would be in different places at different times, all with the intention of making the service fit together as an integral whole thematically. And we rarely sang the same song twice during the church year. A few worshipers were occasionally a bit embarrassed because they thought they knew what would be happening next.

Søren Kierkegaard, Danish existential Christian philosopher, said that worship is a participative performance of the people for an audience of One; and I didn’t want God, who creates no two snow flakes, leaves, or persons alike, to be bored with the worship services I planned and led.

I think the Apostle Paul is suggesting that sort of thing in this scripture passage. In essence he is saying, “Let the Spirit be free among you during worship, and at the same time let your worship be controlled.” Our worship should reflect the character of our God, who is both outrageously free and extraordinarily orderly.

Each of us have our preferences for congregational worship, that is for sure. Some of us are more contemplative, and others more excitable. But it’s important to remember that not one of us is there just to sit and stand, convinced that we have no gifts to offer God, simply observing those “up front” who seem to be doing it all. Every one of us together is presenting to God the gift of our worship, for God is worthy. Good worship will not be boring either to God, or to those worshiping God.

Thought for the day: God is forever pleasantly surprising us. May we, decently and in order, pleasantly surprise God in our worship together.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading.