Services Shaped Like an Hourglass

We begin our service distracted, narrow our focus to Jesus Christ, then broaden our gaze to living in this world for God’s glory.

It struck me this past Sunday, that our most effective services are shaped like an hourglass. We begin “wide,” progress to “narrow,” and then return to “wide.” We begin distracted, burdened with the cares of the week that has gone by, deeply aware of the sins we have committed, perhaps scared or sorrowful or shaken. Then, through the course of the service, we slowly and deliberately narrow our focus for a time, before once again broadening it. Let me demonstrate how we do that.

 

There are some Sundays when the worship service simply unfolds around me. With the rest of the congregation, I am moved from element to element, from songs, to Scripture, to sermon, to shaking hands. But there are other Sundays when I am very mindful of our church’s order of worship. On these Sundays, I maintain a sharp awareness of how the service has been planned and is now unfolding, which is to say, I maintain a sharp awareness of our liturgy. I can’t deny that I tend to prefer these services.

It struck me this past Sunday, that our most effective services are shaped like an hourglass. We begin “wide,” progress to “narrow,” and then return to “wide.” We begin distracted, burdened with the cares of the week that has gone by, deeply aware of the sins we have committed, perhaps scared or sorrowful or shaken. Then, through the course of the service, we slowly and deliberately narrow our focus for a time, before once again broadening it. Let me demonstrate how we do that.

We begin with a call to worship reminding us that what we are about to experience is special, different from everything else we will experience in the week ahead. It calls us away from the rest of our cares and responsibilities and calls us toward a special purpose. Then we begin to sing, to slowly raise our gaze away from ourselves and toward Jesus Christ. The time of confession and assurance of pardon begins to focus our gaze even more.

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