Tag Archives: Worship

Worship As Sacred Journey

William_Blake_Jerusalem

The mystical painter and poet, William Blake,  wrote these words in his poem entitled, “Jerusalem.”

I GIVE you

the end of a golden string;

  Only wind it into a ball,

It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,

  Built in Jerusalem’s  wall.…

A brief verse, but filled with clues about a life of spirit.!  The life of spirit is inaugurated often by someone giving us something.  In this case, Blake is offering a golden string.  Perhaps someone—a professor, a teacher, a pastor, an artist or parent—gave you a question to answer or an answer to question that led you to search.  In my life, my sacred journey began when, as a child just about five years old, my mother told me there is a God.  I remember that.  It planted a seed in my mind and my heart. And I have been winding her golden string handed to me ever since…

The string is golden.  Can you  detect the irony in this?  String is so ordinary, such a mundane and coarse thing.  It is, in a word, cheap.  But Blake is offering a golden string.  Gold is valuable, of course.  What is ordinary or common has, in his poem, taken on enormous value and importance.  This has the aroma of Jesus’ parables.  A man finds a treasure in a field and sells all he owns in order to buy the field.  Leaven is small but it leavens an entire loaf.  A mustard seed of faith can move a mountain.  But too often we judge our spiritual lives by our society’s standards.  Big is better, more is best, the right brand name is preferable and so forth.  This is one reason, I suggest, that people flock to preachers and churches that push those buttons of prosperity and wealth.  But Blake understands in a profound way what the bible knows:  a life of spirit begins when the common or ordinary takes on the gold of a spiritual journey.  The woman at the well offered a cup of water to a man she didn’t know.  He offered her the water of life that would quench her soul.

In Baptist life and thought, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. In other words we are given the Word, twined together like string and dipped into gold.  Wind them into a ball and they “will lead you in at Heaven’s gate.”

Worship is a gate.  It is an opening, a threshold, a passage-way.  From what to what?  From the world of the mundane to the kingdom of the holy.  From the huts of our wilderness wandering into the Temple of Being.  Wind the ball, begin your sacred journey.

Your Formlessness

The bible is constantly warning us against idolatry.  It’s an old word and one that has little resonance in our culture. Why? Because our culture is strewn with the litter of little idols, their plastic impoverished thingness of little use to anyone, clogging rivers and sloshing at ocean’s depth, piled in landfills: the things we gave our hearts to but in turn could provide us nothing but some immediate titillation of the new.  Idolatry is simply worshipping that which is not worthy of your or my devotion.  If “worship” is a problematic word in that sentence then simply substitute “following after.”

On Sunday we enter a sacred space to bring ourselves before the One, the Holy and Just, the Compassionate and Loving God who is worthy of our worship and whose Being fills us with being.  This act of worship is a tossing overboard of idols; a clearing of the decks of those things that compete for our heart’s devotion but instead burden us; a cleansing of the debris and dust of a world-in-love-with-death that pelts us with its hatreds and assorted curses.  No wonder then upon leaving the church’s sanctuary, we feel lightened, relieved and renewed. We have exchanged the cheap copper coins of our culture for life.  We have untied the loads of assumptions and presumptions and left them behind.  We have picked up the gentle yoke of Christ instead.

Find a sacred space and confide and reside in the One who alone gives you peace, transforms hate into love and cures us of our warmongering.    I like this poem from the Sufi poet, Rumi, that speaks to this idolatrous tendency of our culture and time entitled, “You Embrace Some Form,” translated by Daniel Liebert in the book, The Rumi Collection, edited by Kabir Helminski.

you embrace some form saying, I am this

 By God, you are not this

Or that or the other

you are Unique One

            Heartravishing

you are throne and palace and king

you are bird and snare and fowler

like water in jar and river

are in essence the same

you and spirit are the same

your every idol

prostates

before you 

your every thought-form

perishes

in your formlessness

 

Church Rise

Church_Rise I snapped this photo one recent Sunday morning about eight o’clock.    The sun was rising and piercing through the blue Alpha-Omega window, its  light burst over pews, dusting them with red, blue, green, amber clots of color.  It’s a lovely and contemplative moment in the sanctuary.  I like getting there before anyone else, the entire silent sanctuary of peace all mine.  I’ll tell you what else I like in this picture even though at first, it seems to be that the pew edge is marred that runs along the right border of the photo. Look closely and I think those are finger and hand prints.  The faithful have been here. They have sung, prayed, cried, laughed and worshipped here.  So even though I had the sanctuary to myself that morning, I was not alone.  There was a Church Rise, a community of faith-hope-love that extends for more than a century in this community of faith but part of the church that extends into the far past, even into that upper room where Jesus told his disciples one last time to love one another.

My question to you is, in this first week of a new year, Why would you not enter such a place of peace and leave your prints, abide in the presence of both God and others who are dedicated to loving others as Christ loved us?  It’s time. Come on.  This Sunday will be another Church Rise.  I hope to see you.  ~Pastor Bledsoe

100: The Tipping Point

Cleaning up the ledge
Perhaps you read or have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s book and idea called, “The Tipping Point.”  I want to bring it to your attention for one purpose:  to tip our worship community on Sundays over the 100 mark. For a church of about 125 souls, having 70 in worship is not a bad percentage.  But what would happen if we consistently had one hundred in worship?  Our experience singing would improve.  Our giving and sharing of financial burdens would improve.  Our collegiality and sense of being a congregation–improved.  The ability to build off one another’s efforts and extend our influence for the Gospel and Grace of our Lord, expanded.
Here is how Gladwell’s website describes the tipping point:
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
We experienced such a tipping point recently with my “Open Letter to White Christians in Florida.”  The first day it was posted, we had a little over one thousand views. The next day, five thousand views. By day three, 28,000 views. And now at this moment, 70,000 views.  Thus, a “little” but brave church spoke to an issue of justice to tens of thousands.  Let’s work together toward the tipping point of one hundred in worship, shall we?  Everyone now, Push.  Row.   Tip. Worship!
See you Sunday, because  The People of God gathered in worship is a beautiful and powerful experience.

 

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The Gate Called Worship or, Three Things To Do Prior to Entering A Holy Place

English: Garden Gate All around Ballumbie Castle

Throughout the course of any given day in our lives, we find ourselves opening doors and following steps that will facilitate our movement through the labyrinth.  For example, think of how you prepare for something as routine as going to the store. Even if you do not make a list, you take a moment to consider why you’re entering the store and take steps to make sure you have cash or a credit card.  From the moment you exit your domicile or office to the moment you walk through the door of the store, how many doors have you opened? How many thresholds have you crossed?

When you cross the threshold into a holy place, like our church, you have opened doors, crossed boundaries, exited and entered a variety of doors.  Ponder this for a moment.  There is this experiential, bodily transition from one portal to another. We would do well to be mindful.  Be awake. Alert.  ”I am walking across the threshold into…”

Peace.  Translucency (blue stained glass, milky light powdered over walnut pews, symbol-adorned walls, table, glass). ” In the midst of others, I am positioning myself to…”

Come before the Holy, the Unutterable, the Fountain of Light.  What you have done is this: you have opened the gate called Worship. This is a series of actions from prayer to song to proclamation that weave you into a sacred tapestry of space and time and all in a singular effort to place one’s life before the Giver of Life.

There are secondary reasons we gather in the church and those reasons are fine as long as they remain secondary to the one great thing you do that day:  worship.  So we show up to socialize and network and accomplish some other secondary tasks.  What we want to do is show up in that holy place at least as mindful as we are when we enter the grocery store with our lists, our money and coupons.  Indeed, we enter sacred time with the small change of our lives seeking a treasure that far exceeds our expectations.

This is one reason I value so much the first gate we open on Sunday.  Have you noticed in your church bulletin that our order of service is a series of gates? And the first gate is “prayer.”  We begin our service without noise, practically in quiet and in prayerful repose. Think of that and how that might compare to your experiences in other churches.  We begin in quiet, contemplative prayer.  I don’t know how you experience that, but here is what I experience: the illusions of the world begin to crash like slags of ice into the sea; the noise of the world melts, dissipates and dissolves into quiet; I can feel my chest rise and fall to breath; eyes closed, I trade darkness for light. And I pray, Christe eleison, Christ have mercy.

Three things you might consider doing prior to entering a holy place:  be mindful of your thresholds; find the gate that opens into your heart, mind and soul; open that gate as you open the gate of worship.

I’ll end by quoting Augustine from Book XII of his Confessions:

O let the Light, the Truth, the Light of my heart, not mine own darkness, speak unto me. I fell off into that, and became darkened; but even thence, even thence I loved Thee. I went astray, and remembered Thee. I heard Thy voice behind me, calling to me to return, and scarcely heard it, through the tumultuousness of the enemies of peace. And now, behold, I return in distress and panting after Thy fountain.

There is a gate. Open it.  There is a fountain of light by which we see light.  See you Sunday.

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