The Trailer and the Movie
The 30-something pastor sat across from me in our local Thai restaurant, and was clearly too excited to eat.
“When we worshiped yesterday,” he began, “I told the congregation that our ninety minutes together was just the trailer for the movie, a tiny glimpse of the kingdom to whet our appetite, and after our worship was over, the real deal would begin: the full length feature movie that develops the plotline and characters and reveals all the gritty details.”
“And they got it!” He looked gratefully moved. “They got it! As I greeted folks at the door after worship, many thanked me and told me they were ready for lights, camera, action — to live out the full movie.”
As with any analogy, this one has its limits. A "trailer" isn't the real thing, and we were recently reminded in RW 119 that worship is a "super concentrated Christian practice". It is very real in and of itself, but it also points to and prepares us for the worship we do in our daily life.
In spite of the analogy’s weaknesses, I must confess that listening to my pastor friend led my Reformed heart to sing. From an early age I was taught that worship always refers to two distinct realities: a “set apart” time when God’s people come together to sing, pray and hear the Word, and the entirety of life lived before the face of God. Or, to put it simply, worship is both one hour a week and every hour of the week.
Teaching from Scripture
Those who taught me referenced these Pauline scriptures:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 1-2)
Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3: 16-17)
After that lovely Thai lunch, I pondered: how do I lead worship/preach and how do I experience worship so that it functions as a trailer for the full length movie, as a super concentrated Christian practice? Or, to use Paul’s words, how, as the Word dwells within me through singing and teaching, am I more equipped to do all that I do in the name of the Lord Jesus so that my life becomes a richer living sacrifice?
The Path Forward
I replayed in my mind a recent worship service which focused on the role of shame in the Christian life and how the gospel frees us from shame.
The songs, prayers and preaching all flowed from a variety of Scriptures that revealed various truths about shame, and this Scriptural collage truly functioned as a “trailer” which pointed to the full biblical message concerning the paralyzing power of shame and the liberating truth of the gospel which invites us to surrender all of our shame.
As I sang, prayed and listened, I became more aware of the “shame places” in my own life, and I recognized a deep desire for the healing power of Jesus to enter these places. Furthermore, as a youth leader in our congregation, I was able to glimpse bits of the shame places of some of the teens worshiping that morning, and found myself praying for the Spirit to bring the blessings of release to them.
Finally, as I pictured the week ahead, I could identify some situations in which I faced a choice between allowing my shame defaults to continue their paralyzing work or praying for the courage and wisdom to risk a deeper obedience.
I left grateful for worship that invited me to re-examine the “all of me” that entered into worship and re-commit the path forward through the grace and truth of the gospel.