We live our lives in the midst of a "story war."
Here's what I mean. Every day we are bombarded with stories which command our attention, which call us to believe something other than true story of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Commercials: You are nothing without this product! With the right deodorant you will no longer be an unattractive loser! Substitute just about any product in the previous sentences to help their marketing! All of Iphone users know the power of stories.
Hollywood: You need this story in your life! It will help you cry, help you better understand the world or to better understand yourself. You need some entertainment and escape right now. Just tap out for 2 hours. You need a fairy tale ending in order to get through the next week of struggle.
Listen to Andrew Garfield, formerly the Amazing Spiderman, and most recently a Jesuit priest in the movie, Silence. He commented on the power of film in his life as a child: “Films were really my church,” he said. “As a young kid it was movies and books; it was nothing remarkable really, just that is where I felt soothed, that is where I felt most myself...safest.
Now he is acting and pursuing stories in order to deal with the reality and “...the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is...impossible.”1
More sinister is the story told by a secular culture: Right now is all that we have. If you find pleasure in relationships, great music, excellent films, a beautiful sunset, there is a scientific explanation for that. It's nothing more than a "chemical reaction which helped your ancestors find food and escape predators, and nothing more."1 And if right now is all that matter, then I have to get what I want now or it'll be gone. To quote Dr. Strange from the latest Marvel film, "There is no such thing as spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more. We're just another tiny, momentary speck in an indifferent universe."2
Those are just a few of the stories we are bombarded with. We haven't mentioned the destructive stories other people have told us, "You are a failure." Or the stories we tell ourselves, "I can't believe I was so stupid to have done that again!" How do you fight these stories of unbelief in a world that believes it has an explanation for everything?
Enter the Call to Worship on a Sunday morning. The beginning of an ordinary church service. In the midst of the bombardment of all the stories we tell and are being told, God speaks to us! Just like the true story of creation, God speaks order into the chaos. Just like the true story of redemption, God speaks rest to sinners. And the rest of the worship service tells us the old, old story, that God loved the world so much that He gave up His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life!
The service begins with an unashamed statement of truth about the God who is. We are called once again to see God in all His glory: His wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.3 And all this greatness shines in the face of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:6), who says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
What effect will the Call to Worship have on you this week as God comes down to meet with us? What are we being taught?
We are being taught how to listen. When Isaiah sees the Lord in all His glory, the man who talks for a living shuts up. (Isaiah 6)
We are being shown that we are not the center of the universe. The Lamb who has taken away the sin of the world, Jesus, sits on the throne, at our Father's right hand. He is in control.
We are being told the true story that there is more to this world than we can see. And in the words of the apostle John, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it..." God became visible in real space and real time.
A lifetime of listening to God speak first in corporate worship, of seeing His glory, and hearing that infinite love became a person and gave His life for us ought to have a trans-formative impact on us. God's teaching us to listen to Him and those around us (James 1:19). It is the pattern of corporate worship that is trying to cultivate that elusive character trait of humility, to think of yourself less, rather than thinking less of yourself.4
The Call to Worship is the first shot across our bow on a Sunday morning, calling us to look at the One whom all of creation, even the angels, are obsessed with looking at (1 Peter 1:12).
We are told that we are more than our anxieties, our failures and and frustrated desires. We are the assembly of the firstborn, His beloved children saved by grace, brought into God's presence by the Holy Spirit. We are not alone in Christ. And this world will not have the last word. Death has no sting. And we will rise again to enjoy a new creation where each day is better than the day in a better Garden of Eden...a global city where Jesus dwells with his people.
What story are you listening to right now? The best part of this story is that it is true...