Part one, of what I'm sure will be thousands of confessions of bad habits I have... And why this one is making me think about worship.
This one isn't about my inability to regularly update my website, nor my consistency with producing coherent thoughts or words. It's not one of those deeply personal issues to do with toilet seats or nail biting. This one is all about books.
Even then I'm going to have to narrow it down, otherwise we'll be here all day. I'm not here just to confess my tendency to turn down corners of pages instead of reaching for a bookmark, nor my habit of buying books based on recommendations knowing full well that my "to read" list is more than long enough, nor my tendency to start umpteen books at once.
This one is about my inability to finish a book...
... Well partly. I'll also share that taboo vice I have of underlining, note-taking in the margins, and generally pouring my incoherent outworkings of what I'm reading onto the page.
This afternoon I had a small space of time to read, and instead of reaching for one of the 5 books I have started around the house and office, I reached for another one on my "to read" pile.
I picked up "Preaching as Worship" by some chap called Michael Quicke, middle initial "J" as is the American way. It was published in 2011, and I'm fairly sure I bought it in Glasgow a few years back, probably based on a recommendation or a quick read of the blurb and a snapshot of page 42 (a rule I borrowed from a friend who worked in a bookshop).
Anyway, I've stopped to write having read just three pages of chapter one. I got stopped in my tracks by my own underlining and notes in the side.
I don't remember starting this one previously. I'm sure in a couple of chapters time I'll either work out why I stopped last time, or it'll just be another of those that I forgot I was reading... But there in my scrawl are some pencil notes (better than pen, surely?) relating to this phrase:
"How could worship be more real, astonishing, closer, and higher for us than we could possibly imagine? Being "Lost in wonder, love and praise" remains only a line in an old hymn rather than an authentic possibility."
My thoughts, whenever it was that I last read that line:
"When was the last time? Is the problem content, context or heart?"
Now before we go on, taking lines of songs out of context is as bad as taking lines from the Bible out of context.
The promise of Wesley in Love Divine's last verse which rounds off the song with the refrain "Lost in wonder, love and praise" is not one of present fulfilment, depending on your outlook on where and when the sought "Heaven" we find our place in is three lines before.
That aside, I have every confidence that it is possible to be "lost in wonder, love and praise" before we find ourselves eternally bound that way. I fully believe in the possibility of an encounter with the God who inspires such a response in the here and now, however fleeting such a moment might be. The problem is that I sometimes forget it's a possibility for me.
Hence, I suppose, my question of "When was the last time?"
Maybe instead of being "lost IN wonder" we have instead lost our wonder, our love and our praise. Perhaps we have lost sight of God.
Could you answer that? Has it ever happened or do you think it's only possible beyond this realm? What's stopping us getting lost today, in the here and now, in the presence of the same God, on our own or in our churches?
The problem isn't the object of our worship if He really is unchanging. He is just as great, worthy and loving as He has ever been and ever will be.
So the problem must be local. Something must be in the way. Is it as local as me? Am I clinging onto things that obstruct my view of who He is and the immediacy of His presence? Am I too busy? Am I not giving it enough? Do I not want it enough? Do I not believe it enough?
Is it the content of my worship? Am I too limiting in the words I sing, on the actions and service I undertake? Am I not finding the way of true worship? Do I have the wrong balance of praise, lament, and adoration?
Our is the responsibility one that goes beyond me, and therefore one I can share with my fellow worshippers? Have we forgotten how to create a context for worship, one that acknowledges the God in the room rather than the gods of leaders or music or instruments or traditions? Have we forgotten the arts of silence, meditation and contemplation? Are we looking to get lost in the wrong places?
Maybe if I can rediscover the wonder, the love and the praise and work out how to worship and be "Lost in wonder, love and praise" then I'll be in a position to take others with me when I lead worship... Because I'm not content just to wait "'Til in Heav'n I take my place."
Just a thought. Maybe I'll have coherent ones later.
I'll see what the rest of chapter one says, and maybe even the book, if I remember to read it all...
Remarcable is one man blogging about Youth Work, Theology, Family, Life and those other random things that come to mind.