Worship doesn’t always work. It doesn’t work when your student pianist can’t get through a whole hymn verse without stopping and starting three times. Or when the toddler who accidentally bumps his head drowns out your sermon’s climactic crescendo with his screams. Or when your congregation, who faithfully shows up Sunday morning after a long weekend of mission projects, only has enough energy left to go through the motions. Worship experiences are certainly not all under our control.
I work hard at worship, though, because I believe it deserves my hard work.
“I’m going to do something weird,” Malak whispers to Katie, her bunkmate for our six-day interfaith immersion trip to Chicago. Malak slips into her cotton prayer robe, its royal blue flower print covers her head, her arms to her wrists, and hangs to her feet. She begins her prayers, facing Mecca, alternating positions of standing and then prostrating herself with her forehead to the floor while silently praying in Arabic. When she finishes, Katie, a Christian, intentionally takes a moment to say, “I don’t think it’s weird, Malak. I think it’s beautiful.”
I wasn’t sure what would come of this interfaith immersion trip.
A few years ago I started to get a lot of affirmation for my preaching. People were listening, worship attendance was growing, and I was overhearing parishioners describe me as a good preacher. Soon this shaped my pastoral identity and led me to claim preaching as my “thing.”
This prompted me to attend a large preaching conference, to learn from the best in my field.