Beloved in Christ,
I am grateful for God’s presence with us, and for your hearty participation as we give him our praise and receive his service to us each week. I also feel fortunate for the time I’ve had with many of you over the last month in my office, in your homes, and over various cups of coffee and meals around Colleyville. In many ways, the most precious gift one human being can give is the unveiling of their lives to one another, and I’m thankful for the gift of your stories as you share them with me, and the opportunities I have had to pray for you and to walk with you in the various places of peace and rest as well as valleys of darkness in which God is presently shepherding you.
This month as I continue to describe my sense of the vision I have for our church’s life together, I want to explore a phrase that I hope will be descriptive of our common life of worship on Sunday mornings in the years to come: My desire is for our worship to be faithfully liturgical as well as joyfully hospitable.
By faithfully liturgical, what I mean is this: I believe that our weekly Sunday morning worship is a holy time of covenant renewal with our personal and living God, and as such, should be intentionally connected to the patterns of worship used by the historic and universal Church throughout the ages, and should spring out of the ways of God with his people found in the scriptures themselves.
In detail, I believe that this means our worship should be marked especially by an acknowledgment of God’s love and faithfulness, a corporate and personal confession of our sin and our fundamental dependence on him followed by a warm pastoral assurance of our forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus, an openness to the heart surgery that comes each week by the sword of the Holy Spirit through the public reading and preaching of God’s word, a reverent and joyful partaking of the body and blood of Jesus as we ascend into heaven and feed on him by the power of that same Spirit, a grateful offering up of not only the fruits of our labor but also our very selves to the triune God as living sacrifices holy and pleasing in his sight, and a reception of the powerful blessing of our good Father as we go into the world to serve him in our various vocations and obey the commission of his Risen Son with faith and hope (and all of this glorified by the beauty of human voices in song and other musical instruments).
By joyfully hospitable, what I mean is this: that our worship must be characterized by a fundamental commitment to the reality that even from the beginning of God’s work among his people, he blessed them in order that they would be a blessing to all people, that Jesus offers himself as the living bread that came down from heaven not for our life only but for the life of the world, and as God’s people we are called to show hospitality not just in our homes but most especially in God’s house, believing that as we serve those who are strange to us we may even entertain angels unaware.
Our hospitality is offered first in our personal and corporate attitudes toward those who come as strangers into our midst on Sunday mornings. Do we together display the joyful welcome of those who know it is only the love of God that has brought us out of the darkness and into the light? Do we look for ways to show the eager service of those whose hearts overflow with rivers of living water because we ourselves have drunk so deeply of the freely given water of life?
But hospitality (that is, embracing our own potential or real discomfort in order to promote the comfort of another, and especially the outsider) is not only shown in our attitudes, but also takes concrete form in the patterns of our worship together. Put simply, this means that I believe our worship should be offered in ways that are intelligible, warm and welcoming to those who are outside of the Christian faith, as well as those who are not yet familiar with reformed theology or liturgical worship. In doing so, we help make known the way of God to those who are far off as well as those who are near.
I am convinced that when we gather regularly to offer a liturgy of worship that is faithful, hospitable, and full of joy, we are doing something mysterious and holy, and by the power of the Holy Spirit even join together with our Savior in offering our lives for the life of the world.
Let’s follow him together.