Encounter with the living God

On Monday night many of the leaders of our Sunday meetings gathered to think together about how we lead people to encounter God. It’s a pretty grandiose endeavor, right? “Now I will lead you to have an encounter with the living God.” Who says stuff like that? A lot of people in Circle of Hope apparently. 134 people in Circle of Hope are on a team that helps make our Sunday meetings happen. Some are musicians, some are artists, some are technicians, some are hosts, some are caregivers for children. Each one matters because together we can say “Now we will lead you to have an encounter with the living God.”

Ain’t it wonderful, how the light shines?

To close our meeting with the leaders, we created an encounter for ourselves. I asked my friend, Jess, what her favorite song we sing was. She said “Walking in the light” (Here’s a bunch of people singing it). Then I asked the group what we should do with the song. It’s a very simple chorus that’s really easy to get into. It seemed right to stand up and walk, so our footfalls on the carpet at 2214 S. Broad made the beat. We sang the song quietly and let the Spirit lead us and something happened to us.

Our bodies moved together. Our breathing synced up. Our hearts got moving in the same direction. We were actually together in God’s light. We were having an encounter with the living God. Folks were free to sing out over the choir we had formed with their heart songs. There was time to proclaim what this light that we were singing about really was. Some just stepped and swayed I/m sure. This good feeling was from God. Our eyes were brightened by the love we were feeling. It was like when you close your eyes for a long time on a sunny day and then open them. The world looks different. Blues are brighter and greens are cooler. Our eyes were receiving that sort of boost. “Ain’t it wonderful, how the light shines?” Yes it is.

Worship relief

We want everyone to experience something like I was feeling in that moment with those leaders. We want to create a space in which people feel free to express their deep desires, embody their pain and celebration, exhale their worries and inhale God’s peace. What we do on Sundays is made for that but we were wanting more. So we designed another time, special for Lent. Rest for Our Weary Souls: Worship Relief was conceived as an extra time for anyone to encounter the living God, see in new light, sing and pray and receive from God whatever they needed.

But why is worship relief? Why does it feel so good? And what if it doesn’t?

We are made for transcendence. Everyone is looking for something worthy of devotion. We all want to be seen and known and free to be ourselves. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. But many would disagree that worship is how we get there. It’s actually a big old ball of anxiety. I’m with you. It can definitely be that. There is an incredible pay off on the other side of that anxiety if you can get over, around or through it, though.

I believe you can enjoy the sweetness of connection to others and to God, because I believe it is what humans are meant to do. But even if you can’t right now, there are benefits from just showing up. Breathing the spiritually charged air, feeling the sacred beat, watching others connect — all this will help you connect. You might not feel it like I did on Monday (and I don’t always either) but something is happening that we don’t always see. You can trust that. And when you do, it will be a relief. God, who is bigger than anything (AKA transcendent) wants to connect with you.

The worth of showing up

Worship is about declaring the worth of someone or something (think “worth-ship”). If you want to connect with God, just making the time and showing up is already an act of worship. This connection you seek is worth your time and energy and money (for gas or bus fare). If you come to Worship Relief at 3800 Marlton Pike in Pennsauken on Wed. March 7, or at 2309 N. Broad in Philly on Wednesday March 14, or at 5720 Ridge in Philly on Thursday March 22nd, you will already be worshiping when you arrive. Setting your intention for the special time can yield new results. You may be stuck in some groove of which you are unaware. You might need something special. So we made something special. I hope you can try it, because I want you to encounter the living God.