When I’m preparing for worship, I use all sorts of resources. Obviously, I begin by reading the text for that week and I sit with it for a while. Once I have a bit of a grip on what I feel it’s saying, I’ll go to my books, favourite websites, podcasts and pick the brains of clergy friends too. And I’ll sit with it again and see what it’s saying to me now after all that.
There’s no magic to this process – it’s a long hard slog at times which doesn’t come easily, but it’s where I find my spiritual nourishment and I know that’s the case for some of you too who serve as worship team members and lay preachers. It’s an honour to be entrusted to lead a community of faith in worship, and it’s not something anyone should treat lightly, but it can be hard yakka!
Although there is no magic in the preparation, there certainly is a great deal of mystery. No matter what I feel the text is saying, no matter the amount of research and crafting I do for the service, people who are listening will hear different things and be touched in different ways. That has nothing to do with me, or what I am or am not doing, that’s wholly the Spirit’s work. It never ceases to amaze me that the Spirit takes my clumsy attempts and translates my words so that someone will hear what they need to hear that day. Therein lies the mystery.
There are specific times in the church liturgical year where mystery is more evident than others – I’d suggest these include transfiguration, Lent and Easter, baptism and I am sure you can think of others you’d add to that list. These are stories that sound weird and wonderful and we try to find some rationale that lies behind them – some explanation.
This is why being open to new ideas and new ways of thinking is important. We don’t have to agree with every idea that is put to us, but it is important to look at them critically. We have a new small group starting after Easter called Explorers 2020. I know from pastoral conversations that some of you are thinking about these questions of mystery, some of them you can live with and others you want to challenge. Explorers 2020 is precisely the place to do that with other people who might be asking different but equally challenging questions. Talk to me if you might be interested in joining.
We are never going to achieve ultimate wisdom about God. There will always be mystery and always so much to learn. The Oracle at Delphi told the great Greek philosopher Socrates that he was the wisest man alive. The story goes that he was thrown by this and rejected the idea. However, after much thought and pondering he realised, “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
The more we learn about God, the more we realise we know very little.
That’s not magic, that’s mystery.