Discerning Mission

Sunday Morning Worship: Duty or Delight?

Courtney Young is a graduate of Luther Seminary - M.Div. with an emphasis in Congregational Mission and Leadership. Missional, a Millennial, and a new mother, Courtney shares her thoughts with us here:


Two observations I've had since I am not being paid to be at church on Sunday morning:

First, Sunday morning is the only day of the week that my husband, a pharmacist, is guaranteed not to work. It is the only day we have to sleep in together, to have a slow morning, and a big breakfast. It feels more like Sabbath-keeping to stay at home those mornings than to have to get up and out the door for a 9 a.m. worship service.

Second, I was at a theological conference recently where the weekend was finishing up with a short worship service. I sat at a table with a pastor who said, "I really want to skip worship and get going, but I know I'll feel better after I go." I, myself, did not go to worship. I had people to see and errands to run.

These two observations have raised one hunch and one question. My hunch is that people are not going to come to worship anymore just because they think it might be good for them. What's more, their time is too valuable to be spent on things they view as obligations, like worship. My question is, when did worship get to be treated like medicine that needs to be dispensed?

Medicine is good for us -- don't get me wrong -- but it is not fun, does not taste good, and sometimes makes us feel worse. It is for people who are sick or have something wrong with them, and it is usually only for short spurts in our life. On top of everything else, the more medicine we take, the less effective it can become and the side effects more bothersome. Our bodies build up tolerances to pain meds and germs build up resistance to over-prescribed antibiotics. And yet this seems to be the way we talk about worship: it is good for you. You'll feel better once it's all over.

Which leads me to ask: What if worship were instead talked about like food or a meal? I mean, we even serve a meal at worship (even though those wafers can taste like a pill!). Food is good for us and makes us feel better. We grow hungry for food, which is a normal, healthy state to be in, just not for prolonged periods. Food does not lose its efficacy. A calorie will always be a calorie. And food, a meal, always feels like a little bit of a celebration, even when it is just a bowl of soup and some crackers between errands. Food is nourishing at every stage of life, which sounds a lot more like Sabbath-keeping.

This has made me wonder: What if worship was approached like a meal? What if pastors and other worship leaders saw themselves as maitre d's instead of pharmacists? What if worship was a place to be nourished and not cured?

As someone married to a pharmacist, I know people are horrible about taking their medicine. But people hate to miss a meal.


Photo credit: Drugs (Creative Commons image by Chris Goldberg on Flickr)

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