THE THEATER OF WORSHIP
These days, we may unconsciously think of worship as being a bit like theater. There is a crowd sitting in seats in a large room. The people pay attention to what is going on at the front of the room. It might seem the pastor, those who read the scripture lesson, the choir and music director, and the person who talks with the children are like actors on a stage. In the theater, there’s someone offstage called a prompter, who prompts the actors with their lines when they forget them. We figure that the Holy Spirit must be the prompter for the pastor and others. And all of those folks sitting in the pews are the audience.
The Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard agreed that there is a theater of worship – but we’re a little confused about what is going on.
Stage hands have checked the tablecloth on the communion table, hung banners, lit the candles, and turned on the lights and the sound system. The prompters move into place as the pastors take their seats and the choir gets into position to support the congregational singing. The actors received their scripts (bulletins) as they came in and they find their positions in the sanctuary.
Because the production is a musical, there’s an “overture” before things really get started. Then, with music and a call to worship, the “curtain goes up.” From that moment on, everything that takes place in this theater of worship is addressed to God, the Divine Audience.
You see, worship isn’t something that we witness, or are inspired by, it’s something that we offer to God. The bulletin has the liturgy for the service. We might think of liturgy as ritual, but the word really means “the work of the people.” We don’t come together to get something out of worship, but to offer up something to God. If someone tells you that they don’t go to church because it doesn’t do anything for them, offer them the opportunity to come with you and offer worship to God!