Last Sunday we tried something new for us. Even though we are a modern worship-style mainline church, we still like some of our traditions. We like the altar in the middle of the stage. We like the communion elements present with us through worship. We have our liturgical colors out and flowing. And we like our nice 4″ thick padded chairs all neatly arranged in our linear rows. ( In other words, I like my comfortable chair and my comfortable configuration!)
Years ago I flew Southwest Airlines on a routine basis. They were the only airline that had seats that faced forward and backward. Talk about disturbing my “flying” comfort zone. Now having flown on Air Force transport planes, I was used to sitting backwards but not on a commercial airline. Well I tell this short story to simply say that I know we upset some of our folks comfort zone on Sunday. But not only did we change-up our seating, we also changed up the worship. Instead of a full band we had an acoustic guitar and two voices. Instead of 6 songs, we had 3 songs. Instead of a 25 minute oration from the preacher we had a lesson and targeted questions for group interaction. Instead of the people coming forward to the communion servers, the servers came to the people. And so on…Scratching your heads? Okay…here is a little more detail.
Setting – we decided to create small groups for Sunday morning worship and in order to do this we took our chairs and set them up in a semi-circle consisting of about 7 chairs. We then took tubs and placed a piece of 2 foot by 2 foot plywood on top with a cloth on top of that. To finish it off, we put a candle (battery operated, not literal flame) on each for a center piece. We have 20 of these clusters in our worship space and it forced people to sit closer together. The whole intent was to ensure that at least 4 people sat together. Why?
Lesson – was a targeted teaching time to share with folks the background of a healing story. Sunday was the raising of Lazarus from the dead (thus “Resurrections Part Deux”) which is recorded in John chapter 11. It is an interesting story for a variety of reasons:
1) It is the last miracle Jesus performs in John.
2) The time of year is winter and it is Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication – nationalism and zeal are heightened as the Jews in Jerusalem celebrate the Maccabean revolt
3) Jesus passed through Solomon’s Colonnade in the Temple proclaiming that he is the “Son of God”
4) Jesus gets news of Lazarus’ situation but he delays going to him
5) Martha and Mary are close friends who believe Jesus is the Messiah but do not have faith in his power now to raise their brother – especially 4 days later because it’s too late!
And the list of things goes on. But lifting these things up also brought us to the point of considering other things…very personal things.
What was the easiest thing to believe about this story and what was the hardest thing to believe?
What is my grave – the dead place within me that has a stone rolled in front of it?
We shared with each our liberation stories – the moment Jesus called our name and we were set free from our grave-clothes.
And we took an opportunity to write down the names of folks in our circle so that we could pray for one another during the week.
It was a time of sharing with the pastor in conversation; it was a time to share with the whole congregation; it was a time to share in the small group folks sat in.
Frankly, in linear rows this would have been much more difficult to pull off! So needless to say, we are going to continue this for a few more weeks and then it will probably be back to tradition!
My hope and prayer is that these changes might also foster an environment of change – an opportunity for someone to be resurrected. As the power of the Holy Spirit moves and works I pray “Lord, in your mercy.”
If you find yourself trapped in a grave today – God wants to shout your name; God has someone standing by to unwrap you, to set you free. That is the power of the Son of David!
Has he called your name and are you walking freely in His grace?
Is Jesus shouting your name in this moment? Arise my love in the power of His love! It’s never too late!