May 01, 2005

The Worship of God

WE do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Romans 14:7-9

In seminary, my professor of preaching insisted that worship was rightly and only called The Worship of God. To add anything to that description he felt would be superfluous. Whenever I have worked on liturgy that definition has been in my mind. While I was functioning as a pastor, I was meticulous about the words, hymns, and the design of worship. Little things caught my attention, perhaps too much at times.

Now that I am Pastor Emeritus, I find myself removed from such concerns and am able to appreciate and enjoy worship in a far more complete way. Our family attended church today. I have less breath and energy than last week so I used my new four footed cane which gives me security and sat through the whole service rather than standing for hymns and prayers. I don't have breath to sing hymns and responses so I mouth the words and feel included in the liturgy that way.

Scott Opshal preached a fine sermon on story and accompanied it with old and new hymns. When leading worship, one is always cognizant of the process and can't leave oneself open to become absorbed and moved by Word and song. Now I have that privilege to allow myself to enter fully into the liturgy and find worship to be joyful and often very moving.

I am reminded that, In Paul's words WE do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. We, who have chosen the Christian path live in the Lord and therefore live in community. It is the community which gathers Sunday by Sunday that validates the Worship of God. I am grateful for each Sunday I am able to be in worship, and to the community which gathers to be the church.

Perhaps I don't need to clarify this, but I do not see Christians as special in any way in God's eyes. Every person is precious and loved by God. Christianity is the lens, or to be faithful to Scott's sermon, the source of the stories which connect me to God. Everyone is going to be welcome at God's Table.

Posted by Donel at May 1, 2005 07:10 PM

I'm thinking right now about your reflection on the "stages of death" and Lad Anderson's observation that you're in the acceptance stage. And I'm thinking about Scott's story in this morning's sermon in which someone said, "You must put sacred texts on your hearts--because then, when your heart breaks the holy words will fall inside." I'm not sure if this point is really complex or really trite: I'm thinking acceptance (joy/awe/dancing) is absolutely appropriate for you, with the whole lexicon of holy words written on your heart. You are seeing your life "for the fabulous mystery that it is," as Scott put it. You are reminding us to do so, too.


Posted by: Sherri at May 1, 2005 07:40 PM

Donel, Marilyn and Jeni,
It was such a gift to visit today. Reading the blog this evening, I now feel so gifted by the 20 minutes I had with you all. Sharing your journey and dance with cancer is powerful. I wanted to say more when I was there... but couldn't find the words. Sitting here now, I feel touched by the spirit of your life, graced by your wisdom and humbled by your candor.


Posted by: Annie Kurz Chambard at May 1, 2005 08:33 PM

Reading the blog these days I admit to those moments of sadness when the box of kleenex is indeed needed. However, there are also those moments of such wonder and amazement and gratitude as you and your family continue to share your dance with us. So many blessings of insight, so many gifts you continue to give, such nearness of eternal fountain of the Divine Presence.


Posted by: Diana at May 1, 2005 09:38 PM

Donel The Pastor, the Mininster, The Messenger,

Always the congregation.
"With them" con
"Together" con
Gregation, "gather"
gregarious together
Leader of the together gathering

with the Word
with the Spirit
with the Family
worthy together
rejoice in congregation

Present the fruits of prayer
in the quiet,
from the stillness comes
sublime Ahaa
Hold the moment.

Yet the heart beats
into the next one
and the next.
in the stillness
the heart beats
with the Spirit,
for the moment,
then becomes
the Spirit.

Let us rejoice in congregation
Sing with thanks and celebration
for the Heart which holds the Spirit
passing through us now.

Peace must be shared.
The peace of Donel,
yes, the kind passing understanding,
is creating a new congregation.
God is here, mightily.

with the Word
with the Spirit
with the Family
in congregation
expanding with great Love.

Posted by: jennifer johnson fralick at May 1, 2005 10:39 PM

Donel, I was sitting in church today really absorbing Scott's words and when he cracked that joke about his friend asking him if he knew any good books, I heard your deep laugh, warm and strong, weaving its way to through all the others into my ears.
Even though I couldn't see you, I could pick out your laugh from the crowd. It filled up my heart in that way that happens when something utterly unexpected makes you stop and feel thankful. (Much the way the friend in the sermon was feeling the evening he sent the email.)
PS Janet and I toasted you over our Cherry Garcia tonight. Maren and Erin opted for Phish Food. :)

Posted by: Carolyn at May 1, 2005 11:43 PM

Dear Donel and Marilyn,

We are enriched by your presence in the congregation and by the beautiful, uplifting words in your blog, Donel. Your courage and willingness to share your faith and gift of communication continues to preach 1,000 sermons to us. I am amazed at the reflections you have inspired in others, too. May the peace of Christ be with you, today and always.

Posted by: Beth and Dick at May 2, 2005 08:19 AM

Hi Don,

I still belong to the Woodland Hills UCC but today attended the Simi Valley church to support the minister called by the Search Committee as she gave her candidate sermon. The new minister had been a much-loved interim at WHCC. And I had such a nice chat with Ann Chisolm. We reflected on our years together at WHCC when you were pastor - how beautiful and meaningful those years were. And we talked about how, through your beautiful sharing, you are still reaching and teaching us. Thank you so much.

Posted by: Anne Gessert at May 2, 2005 09:15 AM

How does one get this sermon when the FCCB website hasn't "published" it yet? I want to feel included so need a little text to fill in the blanks. Jennifer

Posted by: Jennifer the Wanna-Be Sermon Reader at May 2, 2005 10:18 AM

I agree Jennifer.
I had the audacity to go away this past weekend for a little Music R.& R. and apparently missed heaven! I also heard that the offertory was exceptional and the anthem exquisite.

Let's bombard Scott with e-mails and get him to send us his text - I'm sure that you and I can use our imagination for the delivery...

Posted by: Gillian at May 4, 2005 09:12 AM
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