Worship Responds to Bad News

I have struggled to watch the news these past few weeks. My heart breaks for Palestinians and Israelis locked in violent conflict, West Africans besieged by the Ebola virus, immigrant and refugee children and families in North America and the Middle East frightened and fatigued, and frustrated anger in Ferguson, Missouri. I sometimes feel helpless to respond. What can I do? What can I do? On my best days, I remember what my ethics professor taught me 25 years ago: when we come to worship we rehearse ways to follow Jesus in the world. The news is so bad, what can I do? Perhaps I can do what we do on Sunday morning.

Jay Kieve preaching

Sunday’s prayer of invocation acknowledges God’s presence in our midst and embraces God’s power to accomplish more than we can imagine or intend. When I watch the news, my worship reminds me of God’s presence. What can I do? I can trust that God is at work even when I can’t see how.

Sunday’s songs create solidarity of voice declaring the truths of faith. Hymns and choruses proclaim the holiness of God, the love of Jesus, the guidance of Holy Spirit, the depths of grace, and the promises of heaven. When I watch the news, my worship tells me that what I see and hear are not the only things to be said and heard. What can I do? I can stand and join my voice with others sharing Good News.

Sunday’s prayers present to God the concerns of our communities for healing, for help, for guidance, and for strength. We pray for the Kingdom, for forgiveness, for daily bread, and for deliverance from evil. When I watch the news, my worship teaches me that prayer is part of my power to respond. What I can I do? I can pray. And even when I don’t know what to pray, I have a model to follow.

Sunday’s Bible reading and sermon invite, challenge, and inspire me to hear from Jesus the truth about me, my life, and the world. The Invitation demands from me a response, a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the truth I’ve heard. When I watch the news, my worship shapes me to see and to hear through the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching. What can I do? I can respond with a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the world; a commitment that might lead me to protest or deeper prayer, to political organizing or teaching toddlers in Sunday School, to volunteer or to vacate a long held position.

Sunday’s offering gathers the gifts of creation and human labor, and presents them to God for blessing. Money supports ministry in the world. When I watch the news, my worship shows me how money is part of God’s power for life. What can I do? I can write a check that will fund the help and good I hope to see. (see: Resources for Giving and Learning at the end of this post)

Sunday’s Lord’s Supper begins with betrayal “on the night Jesus was arrested” and ends with blessed nourishment and the promise of a heavenly banquet. When I watch the news, Sunday’s table calls me to acknowledge my own betrayals, sinfulness that limits knowledge, will, and perspective. Sunday’s table assures me that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection overcome my sinfulness and our enmity to bring people together. What can I do? I can, with humility and grace, share a meal and seek unity. (see: Resources for Giving and Learning at the end of this post)

Sunday’s benediction turns the Church with a blessing toward the world. When I watch the news, my worship reminds me that my faith formed on Sunday mornings transforms the rest of the week. What can I do? I can trust, sing, pray, respond, give, and gather because I am not helpless. I am a follower of Jesus who every week participates in the practices that bless and change the world.

**Resources for Giving and Learning