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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Praise in an awe-deficient world

Worship is a weekly opportunity to practice not being God

If you've checked out local or national news coverage recently, you probably haven't seen much eyewitness reporting on worship. Unlike college football highlights, convenience store robberies and lottery winner announcements, Christian worship doesn't make the news. For one thing, it's tough to report on. It's a bit like trying to get compelling footage of a nice family meal where grace is spoken over turkey tetrazzini and beneath warm candlelight. Worship isn't easy to grasp from the outside. You have to experience it.

To plenty of skeptics and distant observers, Christian worship is useless behavior. Who would participate except dreamy-eyed believers, full of patience for invisible things and strangely willing to endure hard pews for an hour at a stretch? Never mind that many other facets of a meaningful life could come under similar scrutiny for being useless. Why kiss someone you love? What's the point of staring through wired safety glass at a newborn in a hospital nursery? What is the value of giving a gift to someone who has no intention of repaying you, much less expressing thanks?

Still others shrink from worship because mystery baffles them. So does that ornate cross with the gold trim paint, mounted on the wall. So does that assembly of people who seem to embrace wonder as if it were their sixth sense. Many of these unwilling participants turn first to nature: "Oh, I can worship God much more meaningfully outdoors than I can stuck indoors with a group of people singing some half ancient song."


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SEPTEMBER issue:

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