This post continues the discussion of topics informing a network of neighborhoods. In the initial post, Becoming a Network of Neighborhoods, I pondered some informing concepts and arrived at provisional definitions of each.
- Neighborhood: a love-formed relational space, usually composed of persons in physical proximity
- Value of Ordinary Life: the relative worth given to ordinary life by the Creator, Lord, and Deliverer of all, Jesus Christ
- Interconnected Web: the real, spiritual connection present among members of the Body of Christ by virtue of their necessary connection to the Head
The nest post, Neighborhood: Built by Love and Shared in Worship, I considered the embodiment of neighborhood. In this post, I will consider the embodiment of the value of ordinary life.
Carrying a Worship Perspective as We Disperse for Service
Christians are not alone in valuing human worth and I am certainly not claiming this. But with an adequate understanding of Scripture (knowing the ideas, values, and responsibilities it communicates), we do carry a value for humanity and human persons that is quite different from that of our culture.
In our culture, human worth seems to be based on utility or superiority: we can do amazing things and we are smarter/better that the “rest of the animals.” In contrast, Christians with an adequate understanding of Scripture value humanity because of the worth bestowed and verified by God: a worth intrinsic to our nature as divine image bearers (Gen 1:26-28).
God bestowed human worth at creation, making us in his image that we might partner with him in his work and be the icon of his glory in the world. God verified human worth by taking upon himself humanity’s self-inflicted corruption and making the only way for redemption and restoration.
Life as Offering to God
We also carry the perspective that all of life–from our most mundane thoughts and actions to our most profound–is an offering of thanks and praise to God. Humans life, not for ourselves, but for God toward others. There is no division between sacred and secular, for all of life has to do with God.
Such a notion flies in the face of a religion-is-private culture. But since God is Lord of all, worship of and obedience to him are not private matters. They are intensely public matters that shape who we are as persons, how we live, how we make decisions, and what those decisions entail. This shaping includes our work life, social life, and political life.
Humans are shaped by their deep beliefs and Christians are no exception. What is–or ought to be–different is the intentionality of that shaping. We choose to uncover, transform, and build our deep beliefs in accordance with God’s desires. Even more, God himself has taken up residence in our hearts to conform our deep beliefs to the image of Christ.
Offering Treasures as We Gather for Worship
We also carry treasures back from our neighborhoods. One treasure is the knowledge and skill gained in practiced love. Like the Samaritan, who happened across the robbed and beaten man, we happen upon persons in the course of ordinary life and act as neighbor to them through our expressions of love.
Some of them will be of one difficult sort or another. The difficulty or ease of relating to the persons we happen across does not determine our response. We do. Practiced love, worked out in the dailies of life, strengthens each of us and, through connections with our siblings, strengthens the Body as well.
A second treasure is a richness and breadth of worship, shaped by our ordinary interactions. First, the intentionality we carry with us–the intention to live ordinary life as an offering to God–broadens and deepens our experience of worship. By intending to worship in our ordinary lives, we decide to define worship as something quite apart from hymns, choruses, and rituals (as important as they are). We begin to see that worship is a tending of the heart that expresses God’s worth, not a set of activities.
Second, we bring back our observations of how God works in ordinary life. We see instances of his care, his conviction, his justice, and his wooing. These observations add to the content of the worship expressions in our gatherings.
Third, we bring back insights we receive from our neighbors. Some of these insights will lift our souls in joyous worship, as neighbors–especially those who have not yet trusted Christ–begin to see God’s fingerprints in the world. Other insights will plunge us into sadness, for we realize how some have stopped their ears and blinded their eyes. In either case, these insights stir a deeper understanding of God’s worth that we bring with us to the gathering.
How can our gatherings prepare us for these two tasks?
- carrying a worship perspective as we disperse for service
- offering treasures as we gather for worship