Encounter or Entertainment (pt. II): Worship and Wounds

prodigalIn part I, I asked how worship transforms us. If we expect to encounter the living God in worship, we should expect to leave transformed, not merely entertained.

Transformation and Wounds

Wounds are an important part of our transformation. Most of us are aware of our own insufficiency. We know that we are not whole, that our world is full of pain and sorrow, grief and despair. And though we don’t enjoy the process, we have a certain longing to have our brokenness identified. Perhaps this is why the song “Sweetly Broken” became so popular a few years ago.

Rollo May gives a brilliant description of art and wounds that I think applies to worship:

Good art wounds as well as delights. It must, because our defenses against the truth are wound so tightly around us. But as art chips away at our defenses, it also opens us to healing potentialities that transcend intellectual games and ego-preserving strategies.

Do you come to worship willing to be wounded, willing to let your defenses down a bit? If a certain prayer or song or Scripture passage presents something that may not square with your life, are you open to asking why, or quick to write it off as something for another person or another time or place? How come we regularly interpret money as the rich young ruler’s problem, but never as our own?

Worship leaders, are you providing content and opportunity for God to chip away at those defenses? Some specific considerations:

1 – This probably doesn’t come from another “I’m going to step on some toes here” sermon.

2 – I think it comes powerfully when our leaders share their own struggle with a text. I will always remember my friend Jason preaching about the women who were first to see and tell of Christ’s resurrection, then apologizing to our community for neglecting our women as leaders. I was cut to the heart. I think all of our leaders were. That honest struggle with the text wounded us and has been transforming us as a community. When we lean into a difficult text rather than avoiding it, we have the opportunity to be beautifully wounded and forced to make a choice.

3 – Can you use formal prayers of confession? Informal opportunities for confession? Is there space in worship to take these slowly and allow these confessions the mental and emotional space they need. What happens when we give space to a confession like, “We have not loved our neighbors and we have not heard the cry of the needy”?

4 – Don’t shy away from difficult songs. The beautiful hymn “Be Thou My Vision” originally included a line that said, “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise.” Later hymnals have almost universally purged that line!

5 – This is not self-help theology. Some of today’s pop-psychology preaching identifies what people want and five steps to get there. It assumes our worldview is fine and that we are up to the task. We just need motivation or direction. You can get that from Tony Robbins. To be broken and wounded by God involves some shattering of our preconceived notions or ideas of self-sufficiency.

After confession comes assurance. The point is not simply to wound and be wounded. The point is to be freed from our hardness of heart for joyful obedience. We pray for healing, and declare forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ! Without praise and assurance, wounds lead only to despair. The repair of our wounds may be slow, but the assurance of healing is constant.

All of this deals with the wounds that happen when we encounter the living God. I believe another kind of woundedness is also important in worship: when we bring our laments before God and ask “Why?” Perhaps more on that later.

4 thoughts on “Encounter or Entertainment (pt. II): Worship and Wounds

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