The Wild Goose Festival is a gathering at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. Happening June 26-29 outside of Asheville in Hot Springs, NC. You can get more information and tickets here: www.wildgoosefestival.org. I am honored to be part of the Wild Goose blog tour and connect through cyberspace with many other people of faith who long to celebrate and embody the living liberation of God!
Several weeks ago, blog tour participants were given a list of topics from which to choose, all related to this year’s festival theme: Living Liberation! When I finally for real had to pick one of those topics, my spirit settled on “living liberation through worship.”
Maybe because I’m a pastor, and facilitating worship is one of my primary activities every week.
Maybe because–at least in my white middle-class context–I don’t generally connect the act of worship with liberation, so the idea intrigues me.
Maybe because I was getting to the end of the list and I’m not brave enough to write about “living liberation as sexual beings”–which was the last option.
So, “living liberation through worship” it is. And this whole idea makes me think of what Annie Dillard wrote in Teaching a Stone to Talk:
It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may awake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.
Somehow for me the danger of worship and the liberation of worship are connected. Because a truly healthy fear of God–a realization of the full power of the Almighty–puts my earthly fears in perspective. And I have plenty of earthly fears. Petty fears about things like whether or not you will like this blog post. Deeper fears about what life holds for my teenage son when he finishes high school next year. Life-grabbing fears about the storms and tornadoes that sweep into Kansas this time of year, about the prevalence of guns in our society and the hurting, violent people who might use those guns to kill people I love.
If you need more fear in your life, just let me know. I’d be glad to give you some of mine.
And fear, as I imagine we have all experienced, is an imprisoning force. It is the opposite of liberation. It can hold us back and lock us in and keep us from living the abundant life that Jesus said he came to give.
Now I won’t claim that worship is some kind of magic ritual that will erase fear from our lives. But I do think that regular and true worship can help us release our fears–at least a little bit. Because in worship we acknowledge the true Power of this world–and the next. We remind ourselves that the forces of bondage and death that we fear are not the most potent forces in this world. Worship reminds us–against the loudest of cultural voices–that our own individual lives are not the most important things in this world. And through worship God reminds us that the end of the Story–the true and real end–is Life. No. Matter. What.
In that way, worship gives us perspective. And perspective, it turns out, can be very liberating indeed.
2 thoughts on “On Worship, Freedom, & Fear”
Oh, oh, oh! The next time I lead worship, I am definitely using that Annie Dillard quote! Our God is an Awesome God, as the song goes, but too often we treat God like a tame kitty cat who thinks exactly like we do, and we treat “the fear of the Lord” as if it were some quaint, out of date notion that’s better off forgotten. My son calls it “milk and cookies” theology. (And if I don’t stop here, I’m going to have my whole sermon written out before I know it…) 🙂
Preach it, sister!