Maybe it’s because for this one hour we get to be transported somewhere else. Martin Copenhaver relates it to walking through the wardrobe in Narnia. When we come into the sanctuary we enter this different world. There’s music playing, different light, colors, strange words, stories - even people that we may not encounter the rest of the week. "Its a world where we see ourselves, others and life a little differently. A world where we are caught up in a special wonderful story". So powerful that it can truly transport us - time suspended for that one hour. A friend recently told me that she wanted to get back to church. She longed for an escape from all the noise in her life. A place and time to experience purity, joy and love.
I recall Jay Stahl, bringing frankincense back from a trip to Dubai. It was used in the pageant that year. Jay was one of the wisemen who brought it forward to the holy family. I remember John Mulholland and Cady Douglass, choking , practically gagging from it - but then seeing the face of one of our members in the congregation. I remember her breathing it in, clearly transported to another time and space. She grew up in the Russian Orthodox church, where incense was used as part of the ritual of mass. That scent transported her back to her childhood, where she first experienced God.
When I think about my own childhood experience of worship it is always with my grandparents at my side. I remember my favorite parts of the service were the doxology, The Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles Creed. Not only was I proud to know them by heart, but in an hour that was mostly over my head, I could finally participate! This is why the internergenerational services are so valuable. For too long Christian Education has been kept in a silo, generations of children never having truly experienced worship. Church school & J2A is important - that is when we can really learn stories like the Battle of Jericho and write prayers like used today. But if you raise children, never having experienced worship - no connection to it, don’t be surprised when they have no desire to attend church as adults.
Another vivid memory of mine is being sandwiched between my grandparents, listening to them sing the hymns. My grandpa had a big, beautiful voice. My Nana? Well she couldn’t hold a tune. But there was something comforting hearing their combined voices in song. We are so fortunate in this church to have such an incredible music program with gifted musicians. It’s why many of you come and it’s what transports many of you through the "Narnia wardrobe" to another time and space. But the singing of hymns and those voices intertwined in unison has a magic of its own. In the novel, Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler, she paints the picture perfectly “His voice was a creak so he fell silent and listened to the others, to Cicely’s clear soprano, Mrs. Jordan’s plain true alto, Dr. Prescott’s rich bass. The darkness deepens, they sang, Lord with me abide! the voices ceased to be separate. They plaited themselves into a multi stranded chord, and now it seemed the congregation was a single person - someone of great kindness and compassion, someone gentle and wise and forgiving".
So we come to get nurtured and put our heads on straight..Anne Lamotte says, “I live for Sundays. It’s like going to the spiritual last station to full up on fuel and clean the dirty windshield and mirrors. I usually show up nuts, self obsessed, vaguely agitated and I am at once reminded not of who I am but Whose I am. Then everything falls into place, and I smile again at how crazy I and most of us are, but how at church, in fellowship in the arms and eyes of Jesus, I remember the truth of my spiritual identity."
But it is not enough to be fed and comforted we also need to sometimes be challenged and have our perspective shifted. We can’t stay in Narnia. Remember there is one last part of the service - the sending - where we walk back through that wardrobe door into the world. So if we are going to go back through the wardrobe a little changed and propelled to bring the light of Christ of others, we can’t just feel hugged. We also need to feel nudged. Like a parent lovingly nudging their child outside of their comfort zone to try something new, to learn, to grow. Martin Copenhaver ends his letter on worship to his daughter by saying. Worship with its four parts gives us another world, another story. The great story of God’s persistent and surprising grace. And then we go back into the ordinary world, but we are not quite the same. We have been changed, transformed, by that different word and different story."