This post was written by Aaron Klinefelter.
I grew up in the church. I mean that quite literally. I spent more time in our small town United Methodist church or church-related activities than almost any other past-time as a kid. It was where I made my first friends, have some of my earliest memories, and was lovingly nurtured and raised. And, I hasten to add, I’m not bitter, repressed, angsty or resentful about any of it. That little church in Paris, KY was and is a place of welcome and nurture.
And I never once heard about the Kingdom of God. Well, that’s not exactly true. I heard about it as a passing reference to what happens when you die. I came to internalize an interpretation of Jesus’ references to the Kingdom as bible-times way of saying “heaven” (cue soundtrack “I’ll Fly Away”). The gospel was good news for us lucky folk who heard about Jesus and “made a decision for Christ” and we’d get to spend heaven hanging out with him singing and floating and something. Any talk of the Kingdom of God breaking into our world now, well, that was just unheard of. Or maybe it was what those liberals were talking about, but surely it wasn’t what Jesus was about.
Somewhere along the way I heard the Good News. I think it was Lesslie Newbigin’s fault. The Good News of the inbreaking of God’s will on earth as in heaven. It was the “earth” part that I had missed before. I’ve increasingly become convinced, or at the very least convicted, that this is precisely what Jesus was about back in the day. The overwhelming sense that Jesus was, through his teaching, healing, and prophetic ministry, enacting a new world where God is King. A new world, or more precisely, a re-newed world, where the poor hear good news, prisoners are free, the blind see, the oppressed are not so, and where we are invited into Jubilee (see also Luke 4).
Well, faithful reader, I suspect you are asking, “Just what does this have to do with curating worship?” Everything, naturally. In worship curation we are engaged in the creative process of enacting the Kingdom of God breaking into our world. Worship is a creative moment, not a product to be consumed, a doctrine to be understood, nor a ritual to be perfected. We invite others into this creative moment when we curate worship. It is in this moment that the Kingdom of God, now, but not quite yet entirely, becomes evident.
This is precisely what liturgy is about. Whether that liturgy is a centuries old litany or a meditative electric guitar riff, it is the purview of liturgy to invite us into the creative moment. Good liturgy operates as something of a wedge that opens space between our status quo and world that God desires. We become aware of the space between what is and what is yet to be. Likewise, the liturgical act is the peeling away of the layers of apathy, egotism, and ultra-pasteurized homogeneity to reveal and revel in something meaningful, communal, and sublimely diverse. It is this space between, the creative moment, the liminality of the threshold between that pulls us closer to God’s heart. The worshiping community of faith experiences the Kingdom in these open spaces that liturgy creates.
Our worship also provides evidence of the Kingdom by being operationally conductive. In other words, our act of worship brings into being a functional reality that was not but now is. Worship does something. It is not an act of self-congratulation (aren’t we great for doing this) nor is blind obedience to tradition (we’ve always done it that way) or doctrine (God said to do it). Worship is like grabbing hold of a live wire. The electricity flowing through that wire must find a place to go and, when you grab it, it goes through you. Worship is conductive in the same capacity. When we enter into worship—and as we curate said worship—we become conduits through which, and by which, the Kingdom becomes evident in our lives together because it is conducted through us. The Kingdom is evident because it is operational. God’s will and ways are given specific and contextual shape as we worship together. We become more loving, compassionate, mindful, peaceful, and Christ-like as we worship. And that’s a very good thing indeed.
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