Tilling the soil
How worship cultivates the soil of our heart
I come from agricultural stock. My grandfather was a farmer. He built his livelihood with a nursery business in southern California. Kurihara Nursery Inc., in Camarillo, California provided the many farms in California with budding plants: strawberry, celery, radish, tomato, and more. Though his product was small, just a few centimeters tall, the potential for growth, for abundance, and ultimately, fruit, was tremendous.
Fast forward a few decades. My dad inherits an old rototiller from my grandfather. The rusty beast was a struggle to start, but dad was persistent, and after several dozen cranks of the pull cord it roared to life. I remember as a child watching my parents landscape our front yard and churn up years of hardened soil, preparing to lay down fresh seed, new plants, a beautiful lawn.
This of course, begs the question: what is the state of our soil? Do you feel like your life is good soil, ready to receive the good things and grow to Christian maturity? Or do you feel stuck in rocky soil; stuck with the same sins and frustrations of your childhood? In short, are you growing? Is it time to till the soil?
Of course tilling soil is sometimes tough work, but the truth is Christian discipleship is more like manual labor than academic research. It’s more about rehearsing and remembering the things we already know than consuming new spiritual information. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality… ‘People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.’ The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see.”
Jesus knew this too. When a rich man questions Jesus on what is necessary for eternal life, he answers, “You know the commandments…now go, sell all you have and give to the poor…” New information is not going to help this man. Knowledge and willpower alone does not convict us to turn away from idolatry and toward God. Only a change of our heart: a change of what we love, or what we desire, will change our way of living.
So how do we form our desires? Let’s think for a moment about how we raise our children. We teach them to say please and thank you because we want them to grow up to be kind and thankful people. We “teach” them this by reminding them to say please and thank you over and over again. Does a child fully know what it means to be thankful? Not yet, but our liturgy of thankfulness (“what do you say?”) turns out to, over time, shape our children into people who say please and thankful, because that’s what they do. They might not always ‘mean it’, but we know that by habit, they will come to mean it more and more each time they say it.
Think also of learning and growing in any other arena of life. Whether it’s learning an instrument or playing a sport, we know that practicing helps us play better. Drills and scales aren’t for nothing – they help us play more effortlessly when the time comes. In the same way our spiritual instincts can be formed, over time, with practice.
The ancient phrase, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi (‘the law of prayer is the law of belief’), means that the way we pray shapes the things we believe and ultimately the way we live our lives. So why not apply the spiritual power of habit to our spiritual growth in Christ? It’s time to get our hands dirty tilling the soil of our hearts, getting ready for God to cause us to grow.
This Advent we are launching a new mid-week worship service called Evensong as a community practice for spiritual growth.
A fresh worship expression rooted in historic practices
2017 Wednesdays in Advent (12/6, 12/13, 12/20) • 6:45-7:15pm
2018 Wednesdays in Lent (2/14, 3/14, 3/21) • 6:45-7:15pm
Evensong is a short service (just 30 minutes) of readings, prayers, songs, and scriptures seamlessly woven together in a concert of praise. It’s a beautiful, intimate, and communal gathering of the family of God that rehearses the gospel in our hearts and minds. It is a service of song, thoughtful prayers, scripture, and a short message to help us end the day well. From beginning to end it roots us in the gospel, in the Christian year (which revolves around the life of Jesus), and in a cycle of scripture readings that unites us with the church worldwide.
It is our hope and prayer that this service would be a catalyst for real heart change. A new worship experience – an ancient spiritual practice that reminds us of the gospel again and again, pointing our hearts toward Christ. Join us!
Why Evensong? For millennia, the church has rooted its life around the hours of prayer. Since the reformation, Thomas Cranmer brought the archaic Latin form into the language of the people, replacing the nine daily services with morning, evening, and night prayers. This was an effort to bring the public reading of scripture to people in the vernacular, in a form and rhythm that would connect with modern people. Today, when we are lucky to get people in church for one hour on Sunday, this short mid-week service is discipleship driven. We want people to draw closer to God and encounter him in the Word and in prayer. Furthermore:
1) We are overstimulated – Evensong is an invitation to quiet the noise and listen to scripture.
2) We are too busy – Evensong is an invitation to rest.
3) We are scattered – Evensong an invitation to focus on God.
4) We are forgetful – Evensong is an invitation to reflect and remember.
As the chaos of the “holiday season” enters our already busy lives, we choose the season of advent to re-center ourselves and remind us of what is truly important. Because Evensong happens at the transition between day and night, (the ‘even’ point) the service helps people find peace and rest after busy days.
The Details: What the service looks like:
• “Concert of praise” – songs and scripture seamlessly woven together (15 m)
• Short message following up and re-applying Sunday’s sermon (5-7m)
• “Concert of prayer” – songs and prayer seamlessly woven together (8-10m)
• Total service time of ~30 minutes
What we need:
• Authors – we need 3-5 people who have a love for words that can help us write the scripts of the services that will capture our imagination and soak into our hearts.
• Actors – we need 8-10 people who can help lead the spoken portions of the service. These people should be comfortable speaking in front of groups, and have a calm yet confident presence.
• Advertisers – we need 8-10 people who can help us spread the word everywhere and anywhere in Wayland and the surrounding towns. This fresh worship expression on a Wednesday night might be just what people are looking for during the holiday season as many non-Christians or nominal Christians are considering attending church.
• Attenders – we need 20-25 people who are curious and can commit to attending this service for Advent (3 Wednesday nights) and participate fully and boldly in our communal worship.
Would you join us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you can be involved.