A Stunning Metaphor for Gathered Worship

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your comments and consideration.

If you watched the opening ceremony of last Summer’s Beijing Olympics, you saw a breathtaking and beautiful display of performance and pageantry filled with Chinese drummers, fireworks, acrobats, musicians and dancers. For me, one of the truly amazing moments was the 2,008 Tai Chi masters perfectly synchronized and presenting a stunning visual across the floor of the stadium. Check it out:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zffp2VPEEdc&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

As I was preparing for that week’s lesson on worship, it occurred to me (actually, it occurred to Kappie, from whom I shamelessly stole this metaphor) that this gathered Tai Chi performance gave us a nearly perfect metaphor for gathered worship. Here’s how:

Gathered worship should involve sacrifice. To do what these guys did required months of preparation and rehearsal…months of sacrifice in order to pull off a single moment together.

My friend Stephen, who plans worship at my church, reminds the choir often that it is their weekly sacrifice at Wednesday night rehearsal (more than the service on Sunday morning) which is their spiritual act of worship. For gathered worship to be truly effective, there must be this sacrifice, this “rehearsal” in order to do something together that is more than just multiplied individual worship. Tai Chi truly is beautiful. One Tai Chi master or even a small group would have been beautiful. But the hundreds of hours of work required to pull off 2,008 of them moving perfectly together was inspiring beyond words. The sacrifice was notable. Our sacrifice should also be notable.

In gathered worship we are necessarily connected to one another. These performers could have all just done their own thing out there with no connection to one another. That would have been beautiful (if not a little chaotic), but it wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing. Without a single mark anywhere on the vast floor of the stadium, they formed perfect concentric circles and lines across the entire stadium (and quickly moved them in every conceivable direction) solely by staying spatially related to one another. Gathered worship necessarily includes a connection to my co-worshipers. There simply can be no divisions among us in order to worship together properly. We must come with an intense focus on one another, finding Christ in one another and turning our hearts toward Him together.

Gathered worship is turned outward, away from me…not inward toward me. There was a single-minded purpose for these Tai Chi performers: to present a stunning visual of the whole. None of them were there for any personal gain other than the pleasure of having presented that stunning visual to the audience. In gathered worship, our audience is God. There is no other reason to be there other than pleasing Him with hearts turned toward that end. The objective of gathered worship is not for me to be fed or to be entertained or to sing the songs that speak to me…it is not about me at all. When we do it correctly, we all gather together with an expectation of turning our hearts completely and jointly toward God.

Every one of us has a role to play in gathered worship. When these Tai Chi performers were running together full speed in multiple directions across the floor of the stadium, it would only take one of them to lose focus or to come unprepared to the task to cause a disaster. There would have been injuries. It would have been an ugly scene. I wonder if every worshiper in your church feels that sense of responsibility when they come to worship? When I come unprepared, when my heart is not in sync with everyone else’s there is Spiritual injury…people get hurt. We actually come to totally depend upon one another’s “preparation” before we gather and on one another’s focus while we are gathered in order to accomplish gathered worship.

What happened in Beijing that Summer night in the Olympic stadium was not worship; not as we Christians understand that term. It was not 100,000 hearts turned toward God together. I do understand that. But it was a pretty good metaphor for gathered worship, one from which we could learn a thing or two.

© Blake Coffee

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