Friday, August 6, 2010

All of yourself…

For most sports teams, coaches will inevitably trot out a certain speech during particularly critical moments. The coach will say- and really, s/he’s required to by the sports gods- something almost exactly like this: “Listen close. This final (play/period/half/whatever) is all we got left. And you don’t want to regret, the rest of your life, not trying your hardest right here, right now. So get out there, give it your all, and when you’re done, you’ll know you left everything on the field!!!” Presumably, hockey coaches say, “Iiiiiiice!!!!!”

Oh, the hairs on my neck still tingle from all the times that speech roused me to work harder to help my team win. And coach was right- However tired I was at the game’s end, it felt real good. Especially when we won.

Throughout his life, Jesus spoke about being his follower in similar language. Not that we should buy uniforms and choose church mascots (though the Plymouth Creek Christian Church Walleye sounds fun…The PCCC Hotdishes? Broncos?). Still, there’s something in his vision for discipleship that echoes the coach’s creed. Jesus is quoted as saying, “Whomsoever loses her life for me will find it.” “Seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness.” “Love the LORD your God with all your...” I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Listen up. You only got one shot at this. Give it all you got; leave it all on earth!”

I’ve long been drawn to such a description of Christian faith; makes life seem…consequential, in a culture filled with frivolity. But the practical dimensions of ‘giving it all to God’ are tricky. Do I pray all day long? Probably not. Can’t I buy the occasional ‘toy’ for my dog or myself? Sure, that’s okay. So how do I, ‘Give it my all; leave it on all on the field,’ in ways that make practical sense?

Shocking confession: I can’t answer that for you. Some pastors might think that’s their job, but they’re wrong. What I can offer, though, is some wisdom (that isn’t mine!) to help you find your own answer. Indeed, it’s the most basic wisdom religious folk of all traditions rely on- Worship.

In Romans 12:1, St. Paul writes, “Present your whole lives as living sacrifices unto to the Lord; holy and pleasing to God. That is your spiritual act of worship.” In other words, if you make what happens in worship a metaphor for your Monday-Saturday journey, you’re well on your way to living as God desires, i.e. receiving, as Jesus said in John 10:10, “life abundant.” “But Shane,” you might ask, “Sunday worship isn’t that important. It’s nice, calming, good naptime occasionally, but training for everyday life! No way…”

In the words of my generation, “Yes way.” Indeed, worship should be the one time weekly you can expect your whole being to be enveloped by the power of God’s presence and love. And the hope is, for the faithful, to infuse our daily lives with such joyful, sacred mindfulness. Indeed, my goal as pastor is to help make that true every Sunday. A lofty ideal, I know, that doesn’t always work. But our worship leadership and I keep trying because we owe it to y’all. Worship should be that important.

The question is, then, how does a church get there? How can you trust that every worship experience we have offers every worshipper the chance to bring everything in her/his life into contact with the love of our Creator? And don’t answer, “You can’t,” because that’s just giving up. Truth be told- We do some great stuff, and yet have some definite challenges, to achieve that. But the Worship Team has worked on this for awhile, and made progress in both understanding and practice. So for the next couple weeks, every letter I write will address their work, and so explore one dimension of this fundamental Christian practice (get it…practice).

But first, I want to hear from you. What helps you ‘give it your all’ in worship? Assuming at least once in your life you’ve walked out of worship having just ‘left it all behind,’ what happened? And how did it change you?

Grace and Peace,


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