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  • Writer's pictureHelen Bent

The worship pendulum (16-06-22)

A Bible Reading: Psalm 95. 1 - 7 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

A Thought One of the big challenges for a leader of worship is to make a service readily accessible to everyone. This is not simple and straightforward. We have a congregation with an age range spanning two years old to late eighties across the benefice. Nor does our spiritual understanding always go hand in hand with age. In any congregation we could have visitors who know nothing of God or worship, those on the fringe of the church who are exploring faith and who are gradually learning to worship through their growing knowledge of God and the example of others, and those who are settled in their faith and who have been coming to worship for years. Alongside this, each of us has our preferred way to worship based on habit, experience and personality.

Psalm 95 gives us some hints on how to make worship enriching. LYCIG describes it like a pendulum. On the one side, we have the loud and bouncy, where we sing for joy and shout aloud, bringing thanks to God using upbeat music and big rousing hymns. The original Hebrew loses something in English translation. Many of the words translated into praise or thanksgiving involve movement as well in Hebrew with implications for posture, dance and even spinning round until you are giddy! This worship is full of exuberance and vitality, celebrating the great God, who is King above all gods.

On the other side of the pendulum, we’ve got the more reflective with quieter, reverential music, deep prayer, silences, perhaps subdued lighting or candles, or incense in some churches. Psalm 95 invites us to change gear and to bow down and kneel before the Lord our Maker. Posture here might involve kneeling or gently holding out our hands to give to God or to receive from God. There is a greater sense of mystery and ‘standing on holy ground’, deeper contemplation, perhaps even accompanied by tears.

Healthy worship needs both sides of the pendulum in order to bring colour and richness to our worship. Ideally, the pendulum will swing gently in wide arcs from one side to the other. Swing too far too fast and we shall get disorientated and seasick; swing too little and too slow and we shall find worship rather grey and dull. When worship is rich, suddenly a reading or a song or a prayer or part of Holy Communion comes alive in a new way. A ‘something in the mind’ is joined by ‘something in the heart’.

God is so great and so awesome and so worthy of worship, there is always more. We will never have exhausted the worthiness of God, so let’s determine to give our best in all its richest variety.

A Prayer (From the end of Eucharistic Prayer A) With all who stand before you in earth and heaven, we worship you, Father almighty, in songs of everlasting praise: Blessing and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever. Amen.

I give you all the honour, Carl Tuttle

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