TO SPEAK TO GOD AND TO HEAR GOD
Rabbi Robert L. Tobin of Congregation Beth Shalom, Overland Park, Kan.:
A worship service is different from personal prayer.
We all have the language of our hearts, and God knows and hears us better even than we do.
A worship service is, for Jews, a gathering that seeks, as a group, to engage God within our tradition.
So we must answer that there is not “one most important” thing and assert that there are “two most important” things that make that possible for us: the people of Israel (Jews) and our Bible (Torah).
In traditional circles, a quorum (“minyan” in Hebrew) of 10 or more adult Jews must gather for our most important prayers to be said.
These include the Kaddish prayer spoken by mourners for a set period after their loved one’s burial and the reading aloud of the Torah in its original Hebrew from a parchment scroll in ancient fashion.
While the Kaddish is said at services morning, afternoon and evening, the formal chanting of the Torah occurs in fullest form only on our weekly Sabbath, called Shabbat (Friday sundown to Saturday nightfall).
It is this act that makes us more than our individual selves and joins us to a chain of traditions from Mount Sinai to the future.
We gather in worship to support people in need and come not only to speak to God (prayer) but to hear from God instructions (Torah).
A CALL TO ACTION FOR THE COMMUNITY
The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor of St. Andrew Christian Church, Olathe, Kan.:
My tradition has a straightforward answer: communion (what some call Mass or Eucharist) is the center of our worship.
Along with communion, though, the community is central.
Some traditions celebrate a mystery by which bread and wine are changed into the body of Christ. We celebrate that we are changed.
We come tender and broken.
In an ordinary loaf of bread, we affirm the extraordinary grace of God, which offers healing, forgiveness, a second chance.
Gathered around the table, we affirm that everything we are and everything we have comes to us as a gift; not a reward for good behavior but a sign of God’s unconditional love.
It’s like coming home from college after flunking out or graduating with honors; either way, the family is waiting with your favorite dish.
But worship is more than communion and community. My daughter was a newborn when we hired architects to design our sanctuary; she was in kindergarten when it was completed.
It took five years because our young congregation spent so much time thinking carefully about how worship is related to joy, justice and care for the Earth and its people.
How can a worship service, and a sacred space, express awe at the Earth’s beauty and solidarity with the world’s poor?
That’s finally the center of worship: how it moves us to act.
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