Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 9 – Friday after 1st Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 singing with full voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honour and glory and blessing!’
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’
14 And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshipped.
Sadly, not all acts of worship are a vision of heaven. In my experience those occasions when, with Jacob, we can proclaim ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’ (Genesis 28.16) are few and far between and even the ‘sine wave’ showing the ups and downs of ‘The Service’ in today’s cartoon is recklessly optimistic.
Our common experience of worship is perhaps more like the young girl who, used to the pattern of sermon (long and incomprehensible) followed by prayers (interminable) ancient hymns (every one a dirge) and plate-rattling collection (just plain embarrassing), tried to escape early by saying midway through the preachment, ‘Mummy I’m bored, can we pay the man and go home now?’
Have you ever caught yourself in the middle of a service thinking, ‘This is boring’? Occasionally, when they meet in Chapter clergy, are honest with each other. I remember one dear friend speaking about the ‘faithful few’ who were not very diligent at attending one of his village churches, saying, ‘I don’t blame them for not coming. If I didn’t have to be there I wouldn’t go either!’ He was not commenting about the quantity of worshippers, he is well aware of the powerful presence of Jesus when only ‘two or three gathered in his name’, it was more a statement about the quality of their worship. It’s not what we do in the service which enriches it, it’s the way that we do it.
The word ‘liturgy’ has it roots (in both Greek and Hebrew) in the word labour. It is not supposed to be entertainment but hard labour! Some etymologies even suggest that the labour of ‘liturgy’ cannot be performed unless the ‘liturgist’ pays a fee. This, interestingly, makes the collection a mandatory part of our worship rather than the grudging release of a few coins from our purses.
Worship is indeed hard work often without immediate reward. As a worship leader I fail if I put my own needs and preferences before those of the congregation. I must be careful to labour for, and serve others before expecting any food myself. At the end of the day we are to stand head-bowed at the Master’s table saying, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ (Luke 17.10).
For me I find worship most difficult when I go expecting to receive something for myself rather than give something to my sisters and brothers in Christ. If worship does not feed our desires it is all to easy to proclaim it to be boring; something which can never be true of anything associated with our Maker and Keeper and Lover.
In reality I suspect it is not that worship is boring but that, when this ennui assails us, it is fact that we are bored. An ailment for which only we ourselves hold the unction…
Blessed be God in the joy of creation.
Blessed be God in the sending of Jesus.
Blessed be God in the work of the Spirit.
Blessed be God in martyr and saint.
Blessed be God in the spread of the gospel to every race and every land.
Blessed be God in the church of our day
in its preaching and witness and its treasure of grace.
Blessed be God who has called us to mission
who forgives and who heals and is strength in our weakness.
- Consciously prepare more deeply for worship. Read the set
Scriptures ahead of time, arrive early for some quiet prayer, spend a few extra moments with the fellow worshipper who gives most challenge to your charitable nature.
- Listen to a sermon or a service or some Christian music on the Internet or radio at a time you would not usually do so.
If you have access to the BBC iPlayer you may want to visit these:
Songs of Praise – BBC 1: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006ttc5
Pause for Thought – BBC Radio 2: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p015nm0y/clips
The Daily Service – BBC Radio 4: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006wzfs
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017