What a glorious Spring day this is turning out to be! It feels like we really need some good days ahead as we have weathered many storms this past year.
(Literally and figuratively) Spring days remind us of all that God is bringing to life in creation, and we too are springing to new life.
Oftentimes, we have a tendency to miss opportunities to do new things in our lives. We go through some things that potentially could change us, change the way we approach what we do, but somehow we neglect to see that as an opportunity.
During the pandemic we all experienced some new ways of doing things; work from home, zoom meetings, online worship. In these changes, is it possible God was trying to show us something, lead us to do something new and different? We have done what we do for so long, it might seem as if that’s the only way it can be. Our tendency would be, as soon as possible, to return to doing things as we have always done them in the past.
Could it be, God is trying to show us something new? Is it possible God could use a terrible situation to offer an opportunity to approach how we do things from a new perspective? Let’s think about that some, roll around in our minds a little.
From my earliest memory, I have a vivid picture of how church is supposed to be. I can quote all the elements of worship that, in my mind, make worship the way its “supposed” to be. Of course, you have to have: Call to Worship, Opening Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, Affirmation of Faith, Sung hymns, Offering, Sermon, Benediction. After all, these are the things that make worship, worship. Right?
These are certainly the things we’ve always done, and the familiarity of them feels comfortable.
What if God was trying to tell us the reason our worship services prior to the pandemic were so light in attendance was because what we thought was so necessary, really wasn’t. What if God is trying to use the break from the norm we’ve experienced, to tell us to try something new, see how others respond to a different way of worship, of life in the community of faith.
We get so stuck in the ways we do things, we codify them into a litany of must-haves. Tradition is a great thing, it reminds us of so much of where we’ve been, and continues to give us a sense of stability for our present time. Tradition, however, is simply the way we’ve always done things, that doesn’t make it right or wrong.
I believe God is showing us a new thing in the way we’ve learned to worship together. I believe God is offering us an opportunity to truly be creative in how we reach others with the message of hope, the message of acceptance, the message of love. What we do with this opportunity is up to us, but it seems to me we should explore where God might lead us.
In Isaiah 43: 18-19, God was trying to help the people see a new day was coming. New ways of doing things, new opportunities could truly spring up if they would incline their minds to be open. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs us; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” The people had been conquered, defeated, exiled. They had lived this way for quite a long time and it seemed as if that’s just the way it was always going to be. God was saying to them, through their experience, God wanted to show them things could be different. Life could take a turn, new things would spring up.
I like all kinds of music, but I may have mentioned I grew up on Country music. I didn’t know there was another channel on the radio. One of my very favorite artists, who we lost this year, was Charley Pride. There’s something in the sound of his voice, and in the words of his songs, that make you feel like you know him, and together you share a common experience.
One of his songs played the other day, what it said set me to thinking.
“Have you ever been awakened by the crowing of a rooster
While the night’s dew is still heavy on the ground
And the voice of Uncle Ben seems to break the morning’s silence
Bringing lights to windows all around
Well it’s time to rise and shine and start another hard workday
And get the cows in and start the milking chores
It’s nice to think about it, maybe even visit
But I wonder could I live there anymore
Something ’bout the smell of cornbread cookin’ on a wood stove
Seems to bring a picture to my mind
Of a little three-room house with mama in the kitchen
But she can’t stop to talk, ain’t got the time
She’s a’fixin’ daddy’s supper, he’s a’workin’ overtime
Trying to pay our bill at the grocery store
It’s nice to think about it, maybe even visit
But I wonder could I live there anymore”
What we have always done has worked for us. And when we go through those motions, we are reminded of so much of where we’ve been. But, you have to ask yourself, is it time to do something different, to broaden our perspective and our experience. Things have changed, are we willing to change too? What I hear Charley singing about is a trip down memory lane. He can recall all the good feelings, and good memories. He becomes a realist though in the refrain, he asks a question that ought to make us ask the same thing.
As we look toward a time when we may be able to experience in person worship; how should it look, who will we attract, what will the emphasis be? We’ve seen a large audience of people tuning in to our online worship experience.
We’ve received such great feedback from how people have been affected by what we’ve offered. These are people we never reached before with the way we had been doing things. I love the old hymns, I love the majesty of worship as we’ve done it in the past. I love the memories it calls to my mind. There’s a lot of what we used to do that has such great value and is so rich. Like Charley Pride though, I have to say; “Its nice to think about it, maybe even visit, but I wonder could I live there anymore.”
I would like for all of us to take some time to reflect on what this year has taught us, what we’ve experienced in the worship we’ve been led to in our online offering. What things have we learned are important to us, what things really weren’t as important to us in order to fully worship? Life going forward may not look like it used to look, but the new that springs forth might be just what God is trying to lead us to.
I love you all, and I believe God is doing a new thing in us. I believe God is preparing the United Methodist Church of Preston Hollow to be a new and exciting place where all are fed spiritually, and all will contribute to a shared mission and vision.
Love and Peace,