Tonight we are starting a new monthly Saturday night worship service at the church I pastor. Since we are in a ski town, a lot of people, especially younger ones with kids, have to work on Sunday mornings to run the ski resorts. So, we are trying to provide another option for worship for them.
I’m both excited and nervous. One of the marks of this service will be that it is less formal than our regular Sunday morning worship. We will have a guitar player instead of an organist. We won’t be using hymnals. And we will be making it deliberately child-friendly. All of this means that worship will be a lot less predictable than normal.
This has caused considerable consternation for some. What will we do without the familiar order of service? What will we do if people don’t know what to do? And, worst of all, what if no one comes?
At every church I’ve ever been to, the fear of the unexpected in worship has always been there. And I’ve wondered why. Why are we so afraid to go off script in worship? Our own lives have unexpected twists and turns every day. So, why does it threaten us so much when it happens inside the walls of a church?
I think part of it is that people sometimes want church to be familiar, and comforting. I’ll admit that I want that sometimes. I like liturgy, and I prefer traditional services. But sometimes worship needs to leave room for the Holy Spirit, too. And when we do that, we might just find that we are making room for new people too.
For me, this has been an important Lenten lesson. I want to be in control. I want to know what to expect. I want to have the details nailed down. But in the end, that’s not always the best, or the most faithful, attitude. Lent teaches us that sometimes we have to give up the privilege of setting the agenda, and we need to let Christ set it for us instead. We might end up not knowing what’s about to happen, but chances are it will be better than anything we could have planned.