“Normal” church life has been disrupted by the pandemic, which has given many people an unexpected opportunity to rethink what worship is, and what it’s for.
This week I’ve been thinking about this quote from Gregory the Great (Bishop of Rome, died 604 AD), who is talking about how worship works, and how to worship in spirit and truth: “If the sacrament of the Lord’s passion is to work its effect in us, we must imitate what we receive and proclaim to humanity what we revere.”
We must “imitate what we receive.” Isn’t that interesting? To imitate the body and blood of Jesus is to “take on the form and pattern of Jesus’ death,” as Paul said it to the Philippians. We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice just as Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for sin.
And then we “proclaim to humanity what we revere.” We speak. We allow what has been embodied in us to be proclaimed intelligibly to all who would hear it, calling them into the life we ourselves have received. The shape of “effective” worship, then, can be outlined like this:
- We hear the Word (in Scripture),
- We respond to the Word (in prayer and surrender),
- We receive the Word (in Bread and Wine at the Table of Jesus), and
- We are sent to imitate and proclaim the Word (in service and witness).
This is nothing new, of course, but it was an interesting angle on it that Gregory’s quote got me thinking about… maybe it’s helpful for you, too, as you think about what it means to worship and be the church these days.
The curated links for the week are below. Three from us, and three from friends that I pray they equip you engage culture today in faithful embodiment and proclamation of the Word.
- On our podcast this week, Dr. Heather Davediuk Gingrich talks with us about how trauma works, how it affects our bodies, and how it presents unique challenges for pastors seeking to help people grow in discipleship.
- The shooting of Jacob Blake this week reminds us that racism and injustice is alive and well in America. One way to start working for justice as a follower of Jesus is to simply educate yourself. Here are some anti-racism resources our church pulled together, and here are some resources from a curated links email from June after George Floyd’s murder. As Christians, our long-term, sustained engagement with these issues is really important.
- An oldie but a goodie from our archives: Why All Good Leadership Starts With Listening.
- Our friend David Fitch has some (helpful, I think) pushback on Tim Keller’s recent article on “biblical justice.”
- Our friend Nate Pyle with some good advice for pastors, whose work is more difficult than ever.
- Our friend Paul Penley is one of the best biblical scholars we know, and has started a new project called Bible Explainer. Also, check out Paul’s book Reenacting the Way (of Jesus): How can you follow Jesus when you don’t know what he is doing?
That’s all for this week! I leave you with a word from Alan Jones I’ve been thinking about a lot this week:
‘We either contemplate or we exploit.’ We either see things and persons with reverence and awe, and therefore treat then as genuinely other than ourselves; or we appropriate them, and manipulate them for our own purposes.
Alan Jones, Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality, p. 29
May you find the grace to contemplate and be present to all around you today.
Grace and peace,
Ben Sternke (for Gravity Leadership)
P.S. If you’d like to get these curated links in your email inbox each week, fill out the form below.