Lent brings us the gift of sacred interruption. This season of intentionally making room by way of letting go of tried and true rhythms prepares us for new life that springs forth in the garden of the Resurrection. But let’s be honest, as worship leaders and planners, the word “interruption” can actually be something of a liturgical curse word. It’s almost like walking along the seashore with your toes in the water, trying to enjoy the view but remaining all too aware of the countless seagulls flying overhead. You can’t help but be distracted by the increasing possibility of something quite unpleasant falling from the sky.
I think it has to do with the fact that we live in a consumeristic, photoshop-happy culture that demands that all our experiences be pleasant and smooth. We rate our dining and entertainment experiences by way of these demands – why not our corporate worship experiences too? That awkward silence in between songs? No thanks! Another slow song? Boring! The worship leader decided to ad-lib during the “Holy Spirit you are welcome here” song? I felt lost – stop that!
The cultural demands that we carry have created an expectation for excellence and professionalism in worship. Excellence and professionalism are generally demanded of us, and we demand excellence and professionalism of everyone else. For instance, we’ve taught ourselves the art of smoothly transitioning from one part of worship to another so that our worship experience can feel more pleasant to our eyes and ears. Who needs interruption when we can have smooth and pretty all the time?
Truth is, however, most of our lives and most of the world around us are not smooth and pretty. Our cultural demands are not in sync with reality. That’s why we desperately need this season of sacred interruption, a simple 40-day dust-to-dust rhythm and chant that can recapture our imaginations and redirect our eyes towards Christ. It is here that we can surrender our false perceptions of beauty in exchange for beholding the most incredible act of love that came straight down from a not-so-smooth and not-so-pretty cross.
So how might we create space for interruption during this Lenten season? I have one suggestion that might make you cringe: why don’t you try putting the mic in the hands of the people? I have a friend who has been around music industry that once said to me that the one thing you never do in the entertainment business is “let go of the mic.” But that’s the thing, corporate worship isn’t entertainment. The songs, prayers, the Word, and the table we gather around are the work we come to do as the Body of Christ on behalf of the world. By letting go of the mic, not only do we open ourselves up to the possibility of some sacred interruption, but we are also allowing others a new opportunity to carry out their holy and liturgical calling of pointing others to God.
Here are a couple of ways you might consider letting go of the mic:
Prayers of the People
Place a mic on a stand somewhere out amongst the people and invite whomever will to come and lead the congregation in a prayer of thanksgiving or concern. It might help if you created a simple, fill-in-the-blank call and response prayer and put it up on the screens to help these participants shape and lead these prayers. For example, if a person feels led to lead a prayer of thanksgiving they can say, “for (whatever they are thanking God for) let us bless the Lord!” The people can then respond, “Thanks be to God!” If a person has a concern they can invite others to join in with them by saying “for (their concern) let us pray to God.” The people can then respond: “Lord have mercy!”
This intentional way of interrupting the flow of worship can get a little messy. You might have awkward silences or even awkward prayers of concerns and thanksgiving! But there is so much potential for beauty as worshippers engage in the work of creating both a uniquely personal and local expression of worship.
Stories of the People
Another way to let go of the mic is to have an intentional time of storytelling during worship. As a preacher, I’ll be the first to admit that these kinds of things can be the most unsettling to sit through. You never know who is going to tell a crazy story for which you might feel like you need to apologize afterwards, or who might decide to fulfill their hidden dream to preach on the spot. So what if you opened up the mic and invited people to come and answer a simple question like this: “Where did you see God this week?” Might this sort of interruption enable us to help each other see God in places where we weren’t even looking? That’s precisely the point of Lent.
Don’t be afraid to take some risks. There’s always a chance that something might not work well in a particular setting or with a particular group of people. Don’t stop trying though. May the Spirit who fills our minds with imagination stir our creativity as we make space for sacred interruption throughout this Lenten season.
Worship is not entertainment. So true! Though I’m hesitant to let go of the mic, I’m always glad when I do. Thanks for your words of encouragement.
This is a great article. Thank you. A couple of us have been helping with planning worship order for our family-friendly service. You are right-we sometimes feel we have to make everything smooth which we may think (and we could be right at times) creates a better invitation for the Holy Spirit to move in and among us. I do like the ideas you presented here-just like the little interruptions of our daily lives here God works through us and sometimes unbeknownst to us to touch others, those unplanned prayers and/or stories may be just the thing that someone needs to hear. I love it.