When I was thrown into the social-distanced life of COVID, like everyone else was, I spent a lot of time thinking about my time on sabbatical, just a few months before we went into lockdown. Sabbatical had been a time of personal renewal and perspective, and in a lot of ways, it prepared me to live a quarantined life with my family.
What I realized was that I was relying too much on Sunday morning worship for my spiritual vitality, and because of that, my worship was suffering. I always knew "spending time with God" was important throughout the week, but like a muscle you use infrequently, my worship atrophied during the week and then lacked oxygen when I tried to use it Sunday morning. For most of my life, I would try to read God's Word and "talk to him" in prayer Monday - Saturday, but it never felt "natural".
Over sabbatical, I started to approach my weekly "time with God" more from the perspective of worship. Instead of simply trying to comprehend God, or do my duty of telling him things he already knew in prayer, I sought to celebrate my union with him in a "worshipful embrace" (Robert Webber's words). Worship became a dance between God's initiative and my response. Through daily rhythms of worship, we started to embrace God as a family not just with our minds, but as complete human beings. It felt a little odd at first, singing with just two people while our son screamed at us to play with him, or to name our emotions before we started pray, but God enters into our awkwardness in the same way he has entered into our sinful mess.
If worship is a door, by which we embrace our union with Christ, it needs to be able to swing freely on its hinges so that we can use it. If we never go to church, and never celebrate our union with him throughout the week, it is like a door without hinges that we just nail shut. We technically have access to it, but it remains closed. A door with only one hinge is also frustrating. It technically opens and shuts, but you constantly have to keep one hand on it so that the door does not pull off of the frame or damage the floor. You can walk through it, but it takes a lot of effort. If a door is functioning properly, it is not something you are supposed to have to think about. Instead, you use the door to access the thing you really want.
Keeping worship confined to Sunday mornings is like a one-hinged door. We can engage in Sunday morning worship as we were intended to do, but it takes a lot of effort and we struggle to see the purpose of it, besides just going through the motions. Instead of celebrating our union with Christ, we often get stuck on the rituals or particularities of our duties. Our hand is still holding the door up.
If you have ever tried fixing a broken door or replacing its hinges, you know that as soon as you put even one screw into the second hinge, the door swings freely. Over sabbatical I found that one screw, and over the last nine months of COVID life, I have continued to try to anchor my second hinge to the frame. Sometimes it feels like I got the screw in just in time before the whole door fell off.
During socially distanced corporate worship, the hinge I thought was secure, Sunday morning, started to come loose. But instead of the door collapsing, the hinge I had started to screw in over sabbatical, weekly rhythms, started to hold more weight. In fact, I can confidently say that I have never had healthier worship than I have now. My time of worship each day supports, feeds, amplifies, and prepares me for worship on Sunday morning, no matter how challenging it might be, and my Sunday morning propels me into worship throughout the week.
My great hope going forward is that the particularities in worship that often distract me, or even hinder, will start to decrease, and the embrace of my union with Christ will increase. With both hinges screwed in, I can let go of the door and celebrate my access to God. As the weight of my worship is held by both hinges, my spiritual habits become less about complicated duty and more about living a life united to Christ.
I hope the following liturgy is helpful to you. If you already have "both hinges screwed in", this might just be another tool to throw into the bag. But if like me, you struggle to let the door swing freely, I hope this helps you anchor your worship throughout the week. Each liturgy is written with the perspective of God's divine initiative and our embrace of him. Let us align ourselves with the mission of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
More about Daniel Snoke HERE.