Worship as Story

Mark Jonah:

This short article appeared in the “Longview (Texas) News Journal” in their Religious Section, May, 2015:

moviesAs I write this it is the “unofficial” beginning of summer with Memorial Day just passing.  With the start of summer comes the beginning of the hopeful summer movie blockbusters.  And where we live we’ve had lots of rain.  With all the rain we’ve been having, going to a movie may seem like a good option.  And even if the temperature seeks to make it to three digits (which I’m sure it will), an air conditioned reprise at a movie will be a good option when the sun comes out.

I really enjoy going to movies.  I even like watching the previews.  I’ve had the experience that once I’ve seen a movie for which I saw the preview, I realize that all the best parts of the movie were in the preview!  Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. As far as watching a movie, I love a good story. And I like the stunts and action (which I know cannot be replicated in real life, thankfully. Suspension of disbelief is generally a good option at a movie). So whether it’s a mystery, a heroic battle, or “based on a true story,” I enjoy movies!

In my more thoughtful moments, when I think about the process of watching a movie, I know that once a movie begins and I am given a “window” into the lives of the people. I am entering a story already in motion.  The people in the movie have lives, have families, have jobs, and depending on the movie, already have something that has happened in their lives they need to respond to.  When a movie begins, there is already stuff going on.  The people in the movie have a past.  The story has a past.

And when I think about the ending of movie, other than wanting a solid, good, and concise ending, I realize that here too the story has motion.  After my movie “window” closes, the people in the movie have lives that keep going.  They still have lives, they still have families, and they still have jobs.  When a movie ends, stuff continues happening.  The people in the movie have a future.  The story has a future.

I’d like to apply this past story and future story idea to going to a church worship service.  When someone attends a worship service, she is entering into a story that has a past.  The story of what God has done in the world predates our experience of the biblical narrative.  God has been actively involved in our world since time began.  His purposes for redeeming, reconciling, and restoring all of creation through Jesus Christ have been and are being realized.  When we attend a worship service, we are coming at the invitation of the One who created and redeems.  At the beginning of the worship service, we should focus on the reality that the activity of God has been going on before we even arrived.  We are coming to a story that has a past.

And when someone leaves a worship service, he is leaving only in the physical sense.  The story of God does not cease at the end of a worship service.  God continues to work his will in the world.  God desires to walk with us as we leave the gathered congregation, to walk in the story of God in our lives; where we live, where we work, where we go to school, and where we play. The story has a future.

The story of God is a big story.  My life?  Not as big a story.  But when I enter into God’s narrative, I find myself in a story that reaches into my life and changes me.  God’s story gives direction and purpose to my story.  Whenever you go to a church worship service, remember that you are entering into a grand story of redemption.  This story has a past and this story has a future.  Coming and going, enjoy being in God’s story!


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