‘Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring! Don’t panic!’ I am sure that many of us will have fond memories of those famous words frequently uttered by Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army. Perhaps some of you read the title of this article and are starting to panic. Is it going to be about restructuring our services in a way that we will not like? Well the title could suggest that but I want to write about something quite different.
I am not writing about the way in which we plan and implement worship but about the way worship shapes us. I read the following quote this week:
‘In worship we receive a new identity, we are formed morally. By encountering God we learn how to be disciples. We learn to love by being loved; we learn to forgive by being forgiven; we learn generosity by being treated generously.’ (Personhood and Presence by Ewan Kelly)
In this passage Kelly is writing primarily about the way worship shapes (or shaped) us as children. Yet at a time when most children have absolutely no experience of church worship surely we have to hope that such shaping can take place later in life. And indeed for us as adults surely we hope that the shaping is not over and that God continues to be at work as we bring to worship the challenges of later life.
In the final session of our Lent Course this year we discussed the place of transformation in the Christian life. Time and time again in our Sunday liturgy we pray that God will work within us to change us (look through the service and see if you can spot the occasions when we do this). Yet in the group we had to admit that often we said these words without thinking about them and certainly without any real desire that God do as we ask. We actually have no real thought of being changed. Yet as we celebrate the Feast of Easter and look forward to Pentecost we do so in the hope of the possibility of new beginnings and different lives – not through our own efforts but through the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
So perhaps a touch of panic might be good thing. Not in the sense that we do not trust God to work within us for good. But in the sense that God might have something new for us to be and to do.