I am indebted to Craig Satterlee, Bishop of the ELCA North/West Lower Michigan Synod, for providing me with a lasting image of Christian worship that links the liturgy to the church’s mission. He likens it to a river. Like a mighty river, the saving work of God that began with Israel; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and continued beyond Pentecost are connected to one another and to Sunday worship as “the single, continuing story of God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ.” *
The Eucharist is our strong center and the vantage point from which we see more deeply into the world. Worship is more than a consumer activity, and more than an event that inspires us. Through worship, God is at work enacting God’s saving work of reconciliation and, like a river, it will not be stopped until the reign of God comes in all its fullness.
God enacts God’s mission around the baptismal font, the ambo, and the communion table. That mission flows out into the world through us. Worship and mission are not separate activities but inextricably tied together.
I resonate with this image as it speaks to my experience. Over the years I have come to “taste and see” that God is up to something in the world through the body God consistently brings into being around the font of water, the enduring word of scripture, and around the table of mercy. If the image of the river resonates with my theology it is because, first, it was part of my experience.
I have also come to see how this image or others like it work well for Phinney Ridge because it speaks to the reality of this Christian community. Worship is central to Phinney for many reasons. Primarily, the liturgy is central because it is where we encounter Christ fully. Mission isn’t something “extra” to worship but is enacted around the font, word, and table, and into the world.
I see this connection all the time but have been especially mindful of it the past month or so. Tent City has made our front lawn their home for now. We have formally adopted a refugee family. Food bank distributions at Thanksgiving and Christmas made holidays a little brighter for several neighbors. Several who are new to us will be embarking on the WAY. Formation for all ages continues to flourish. This congregation doesn’t wince at mission but welcomes it, embraces it, participates in it, because it is what we see and hear and know each week when we feast upon God’s Word and feast together at Christ’s table.
I cannot think of a better or more hopeful way to enter 2020 than to know that in this little corner of Christ’s body the river flows mightily.
*When God Speaks through worship, Craig A. Satterlee, 2009