Each week we come forward. Young and old. Spiritual veterans and rookies. Adolescents walking as if propelled by jet engines. Seniors teetering on the arms of their married partner or friend of 50 years. It’s the end of our worship service, and time again for weekly communion.
Our worshippers come from a staggering array of spiritual backgrounds. We know some wandered in just that morning. Some have a deep, abiding faith in Jesus. And others have a faith not yet an inch deep. We tell newcomers, and remind those who have been around since the beginning, that our church is “about grace.” And what’s more grace-full than receiving it through what the historic church has called, “the means of grace?” As a young, thoughtful church planting friend of ours repeats, “Each week in our worship we want folks to experience grace three times—in the time tested liturgy, in the sermon, and in the Eucharist.” The weakest link, he always says, is his own preaching. But the time-tested liturgy with confession and assurance and the sacrament of communion never fail.
Following Jesus is a delightful, confusing, enlightening and often confusing journey. Living by and shaping ourselves around his life-giving worldview takes time. Spiritual novices often quit early in any process of spiritual formation. Church veterans often settle for a half-hearted transformation that mixes quips from YouTube videos, themes of pop song lyrics, and family proverbs into a stew of beliefs.
One of our practices as a congregation is to encourage people of all ages to explore a rhythm of scripture memorization as a way to help all of us, young and old, spiritual novices and church veterans to deepen our faith. This practice, loved by every Christian tradition, has often been exercised in an off-putting and belittling way.
But we have found that practiced with grace and humor it deepens our life of faith. And, as often is true, children lead the way, often beginning our worship or leading it through texts they have memorized.
When disorder threatens our well-constructed world people are tempted by two options. One is to dump the faith declaring, “It doesn’t work.” Following formulas to a better life has left us resentful and empty. So we pronounce all belief bankrupt and move on.
A second option, often chosen by folks with deeper ties to church subculture, is to mouth pious clichés. While inwardly retching, we maintain an exterior of religious platitudes. We state slogans found on Christian bumper stickers and key chains. We show exterior strength, hoping our emotions will one day match our behavior.
The book of Psalms offers us a third, time tested way to pray the mess of our emotions as an act of faith. Each week in Granite Springs’ worship we incorporate the psalms’ voice of ancient wisdom to guide our prayer as individuals and as a community. Through song and prayers we learn from the psalms as “prayer masters” finding our place and adding our voice to their ancient rhythm of praise, lament, confession and lament using this ancient, timeless and well loved prayer book of God’s people of all times and places.
Here’s the type of song we might sing on Sunday mornings (by our Director of Music, Aaron Antoon):