Over the past week, I have been a part of two unique worship services. First, last Friday, our chapel service was completely in Spanish (both music and readings). And to be honest, I understood less than 10 words the whole time. Then on Sunday, my Religion in America class visited a Greek Orthodox church. Over half of the divine liturgy was done in Greek. I could at least understand this a little bit better. Both of these experiences were quite foreign to me, not only in the sense of language, but also in the center or focal point of the service. Neither of them had a sermon, which was something completely new to me. I have spent so much of my church life with a focus on the preached word, both growing up, and even more so once started exploring the Reformed church. Preaching has always been central. In both services, there were some bible passages read, but nobody expounded upon them from there. They let the bible speak for itself, free from the interpretation of one man or woman and their meditation and study upon it.
In the Spanish service, the focus was on the musical part, while in the Greek Orthodox service, the central aspect was the Eucharist. I had never seen so much attention paid to the breaking of bread together. It was clear that community and union through the body of Christ was very, very important to this tradition. It’s about the body of Christ coming together and remembering that we are truly the body of Christ, the representation and aroma of God to the world around us.
For me, both of these services placed me outside of my comfort zone as far as worship styles go. But I think this could be a very important practice for followers of Jesus to take hold of in the years to come: visit other churches and worship together as the one, holy, catholic church, not as a critic or pessimist. People worship differently with than us. It’s just a fact. But it is quite a challenge to focus one’s mind and heart to enter a worshipful state when hardly anything can be understood. Worship can sometimes be convenient and second-nature to us. If that’s the case, it is time to visit another tradition, to worship in a new way, and in that process, maybe we will begin to see God in a new way and see ourselves in a new way. Maybe we get too caught up in whatever emphasis our church has (for me, the sermon) and we forget that worshiping God can extend far beyond our own practices. Maybe we should learn from other Christians and unite with them as the body of Christ and not just amputated arms and legs doing our own thing.