This weekend our youth choir presented “Miss Persia”. It’s a musical about the story of Esther and they did a fantastic job! Our youth can sing better than most all of those reality show contestants peppering our prime time tv and they find ways to be creative and hilarious in their acting. Not only that, but they are incredibly encouraging of one another so that by the end of the three performances, each youth is confident that they have been a major part of something…not all are stars but all have helped and all have played an important part in pulling the show off. It’s a wonderful community building venture.
The youth presented three shows over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And spent the weeks before rehearsing non-stop. On Sunday, we decided not to have Youth Group to give the youth and their parents a chance to rest after a busy church weekend. I assumed that most of them would sleep in on Sunday morning…that most wouldn’t show up for worship…that rest was indeed a higher priority after a full weekend of being at church…that parents would encourage a day in and that youth would gladly accept getting out of church one morning.
I was wrong. So wrong. Youth showed up for Sunday school and worship. Parents too. Yes, they were a little sleepy but they were there and they were happy to be. And they were still offering one another credit for a job well done at the musical, continuing that community built over the weeks of practice. And after church, they went home to rest. They rested without filling the “free” night up with other activities.
Had I so grossly underestimated my youth and their need for Sabbath worship? Had I sold our parents short on time and energy? Yes on both accounts.
Which made me think…
Perhaps the answer to encouraging Sabbath Worship is encouraging faithful community. These youth and families, after spending weeks at church rehearsing, painting sets, making costumes, and learning music still had not had enough of one another. After so many late nights of practice and stressful moments of flubbing through lines, these people, this community, still wanted more. More of one another and more of the feeling you get when you enter into holy community. Identity. Belonging. Value. And because they wanted more, they showed up for worship. They could have easily read a devotional at home and called it worship. But they didn’t. They showed up to be WITH one another, to take part in communal worship, and to meet God as God’s people, not as individuals. There is holiness in that.
Can that holy community that we feel when working together on church projects (or any project) lead us directly to Sabbath worship? Can we begin to pull others into our pews by opening the door to various experiences of holy community? Can we point people to God by pointing them to one another? I think so. And I think we best get to it.
Maybe true Sabbath worship begins with work. Putting in effort for a cause with a community, whether it’s the church musical or cooking for the soup kitchen, can open the door that leads to a holy community joined in worship. Maybe we as a church should focus less on how many show up for worship, banging our heads against the wall, wondering why and how our numbers are dwindling and start inviting people to do the WORK of the Lord. If such work pulls us into community with one another, worship may naturally follow. Maybe the work of the Lord begins with community and ends with worship. Maybe Sabbath does too.