Have you ever just gotten into the routine of church? I wish I could say that I'm always 100% present in our worship service but, realistically, many times I am coming into the service with a head full of cluttered thoughts or emotions. There have been a few worship experiences I have in the past few months that have really reminded me of the joy of worship.
Today my niece got baptized. I attended her church with Matt and the kids. The grandparents on both sides of my niece were there as well as a few of my brother-in-laws' families. In all, there were at least 20 people here to see my niece dedicated to God. The church is a different denomination than my church but it was still similar enough to other churches that I have been to to enable me to know what was going on.
The service began with a prelude played on a guitar and violin. It was a really different setting of a hymn and I felt really drawn into the music. (Maybe as a precursor, I should say that music in a worship service is something that I really notice. Being a musician myself, I love taking part in singing and being involved with the worship but recently I have felt distracted by the music at my own church, almost like it is a concert rather than worship. This has really upset me.) Next came the call to worship followed by more worship songs. Their worship band was made up of a pianist, a guitarist, a bass guitarist, a violinist and 3 vocalists. They sang Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, but in a contemporary setting; same text, same melody and harmony, just different in a really cool way. The second song they sang was Jesus, Lover of My Soul, played a little faster. It almost had a bluegrassy feel to it. (I loved it!) At this point, Timmy (who is used to being at church) started to turn around and look at all the people in the congregation. He said it "sounded like a choir of angels." (I think the acoustics of the church also added to that but I didn't tell him that.) I loved the lyrics of this song.
Next came a call to confession. I grew up Catholic- sort of (Christmas and Easter Catholic would be more accurate). I got my first communion in the Catholic Church and my parents didn't really think church was very important. I started going to church on my own in 8th grade. I ended up at a Congregational Church, which I liked a lot while I was there up until college. So, I was used to responsorial reading and switching a lot between sitting, kneeling and standing. This church does confession on their knees. I don't know if I have been to any church which only goes to its knees during confession. It was profoundly moving to me. I also noticed that this church has many, many people in their 20s-40s while I was getting down to kneel. Usually the traditional churches around my town either have a mix from 30-80s or are usually the older crowd. It was cool to see so many people in my generation committed to the church.
After that we sang Arise, My Soul, Arise. We took the offering and sang the Doxology. Next came the baptism. Sometimes when someone I know is dedicating their child to God, it makes me really emotional. I am proud that they choose to raise their child in a Christian household. I am honored to be there celebrating with them. I often am sad that many of my own family members still have not been saved. I also think a lot about the responsibility of being a fellow Christ follower and having a responsibility to that child to help show them Jesus. Today was no different.
To be brutally honest, I was thinking about all of these things during the sermon and was distracted by a few things so I didn't really hear all the pastor was trying to tell us. After the sermon came another piece, Behold The Lamb before communion. Beautiful piece. As I watched strangers, friends and family walk up to take communion, I got a real feeling of joy. What an honor it is to worship corporately. I am reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand and I haven't even gotten to the meat of the story, but I know it deals a lot with the Underground Church. I was thinking about that today as I freely worshiped in a new place, felt welcomed and professed my faith publicly with all of them. I also noticed that this church was also much more multicultural than the church I attend. It made me think of Psalm 86:9- All the nations you have made will come before you in worship, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
I have been taking part in the 31 Days series and writing for 31 days about joy. In this time, I have also read the blogs of many other participants. Part of the joy I have in my faith is knowing that there are other believers that I can worship with, learn from, be encouraged by and develop genuine friendships with. I have been thrilled (and slightly surprised) to read the blogs of so many other Christians. Your struggles, joys, and daily life have been both challenging and inspiring to me.