During my four years at Hope College in Holland, MI I attended Mars Hill, a non-denominational church in Grandville, MI. Those weekly services were incredibly influential, educational and thought-provoking. I'd grown up in the church, but suddenly going to church was more exciting than it had been before.
My freshmen year at Hope I went to a special worship service one Friday night at Mars. A group of about 200 people and the worship band gathered to sing for a CD that the church was making of their music. I think the best word to describe music at Mars is creative. It wasn't like watching a show or a performance, everyone was always involved and part of the music experience. On this night, between every few songs, we corporately read a Roots paragraph. The overarching idea was that we need to worship God in every direction.
I rediscovered the CD we made that night this weekend and felt like I was transported back to my time at Mars Hill. I wrote out these passages that we had read together that night because I'm so struck by the richness, simplicity, theology and truth of these words. So much of it comes right from the Word.
Corporate Love Reading- The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord loves righteousness and justice. The Earth is full of his unfailing love. Your love oh Lord reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. We will sing of your great love forever. With our mouths we will make your faithfulness known through all generations. This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If any one of us sees a brother or sister in need but does not have pity on them, how can the love of Christ be in us? Dear friends, let us not love with word or tongue but with actions and in truth. For Jesus said these commands are summed up in this one command, "Love your neighbor as yourself, for love is the fulfillment of the law." The end of all things is near, therefore be alert and of sober mind. Love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins.
Outward- Jesus calls his church to be a compelling force for good in the world. God uses people as agents of change to relieve suffering and fight injustice, living out the transforming message of the resurrected Jesus. At Mars Hill we believe that the church is at its best when it serves, sacrifices and loves, caring about the things God cares about. We were created to live for something larger than ourselves.
Backward- We see ourselves in a long line of generations taking part in the endless conversation between God and people. We believe the Bible to be the voices of many who have come before us, inspired by God to pass along their poems, stories, accounts and letters of response and relationship with each other and the living God. To know where we're going, we have to know where we've been.
Inward- We believe that God wants to redeem every part of us and that Jesus' message of salvation is holistic in nature. We believe that all of life is spiritual life and that all of our fears, failures and broken hearts can be restored and made whole. We value the inner journey because we want to be fully integrated people-- body, mind, soul, emotions and experiences all offered together to God.
Withward- The way of Jesus can't be lived alone. Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Holy Longing, says, "Thus not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves as part of the body of Christ with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is being pleaded for in prayer... Our prayers need our flesh to back them up. In some mysterious way, God's comfort and presence and forgiveness and his answers to our prayers can often be made known through us."
Upward- We believe that the world God created is good. That he creates people in his image and that no amount of darkness can erase that divine imprint. Because we believe that all of life is sacred, we look for God's fingerprints everywhere. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude and worship. God invites everyone, everywhere into this way of life and we believe it is the best possible way to live.
Benediction- May you never stop worshiping our God in every direction. As you look backwards may you remember the words of the poets and prophets. And may they inspire and compel you forward on this journey. May you have the courage to look inward, learning to love yourself so that you may go outward and love the world to heaven. May you not do this alone, but together with others-- sharing, celebrating and putting the resurrected Jesus on display for all to see.