I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. - Romans 12:1
What is worship, really, but putting ourselves at the feet of something larger than ourselves? Worship began when human life began, as ancient people gathered around a fire, and looking at the heavens, told stories about the beginning of this mysterious world. Worship began when ancient people carved pictures into cave walls in an attempt to share a vision that went beyond momentary thought. Worship began when, discouraged by the pain and sorrow of this world, people sought a larger context in which they could find rest and trust. Over time, worship has often become a shared ritualized event, like ritual dances under the moonlight, the pouring of oil on a pile of stones, the offering of crops or livestock at an altar, or various liturgies in houses of worship. Sometimes people have mistakenly worshipped what seemed like something bigger - money, power or possessions - only to discover they were just looking into a mirror of their own small fears. But worship, formal or informal, positive or negative, has been a part of every human being's life since the beginning of time.
I was thinking a lot about this when Bo and I were in Toronto recently, and went up the CN tower in the late afternoon. It was a crowded place! We stood in line for over an hour with hundreds of tourists from all over the world to get onto the elevator that would take us up. And by the time we got up there, it was getting close to sunset. People began to congregate along the windows on the west side of the tower as the sun began to sink. It was a nice evening, and the sunset was going to be very pretty. More and more people gathered. They pulled out their phones. They aimed their cameras. They stood watching the sun do what it does every single day - an event that is as common and ordinary as it is truly awesome. Chatter settled down and the room became quieter as people stopped just to watch. Just to be present to the beautiful sunset. Everything stopped as we stopped our lives as usual to worship the glory of creation - the glory of God.
As I write, there are hundreds of people en route, traveling many miles to watch the solar eclipse tomorrow. Granted, an eclipse is not as common an occurrence as our daily sunset, but still, people are taking hours, days even, out of their usual daily routines just to go and stand in awe of God's creation. To gaze at the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and to ponder our existence on this fragile earth.
I'm not sure what moved me so deeply that night in the CN tower, but there were tears in my eyes as I turned my camera away from the sunset and toward the congregation that was watching it. It was a group of people from all over the world, people of all ages, genders, races, religions, all stopping everything to just be present to God. The experience only confirmed what I already know. This world could really use more moments like this - when we can just be together experiencing the presence of something much, much bigger than we are.
I am looking forward to our worship together on Sunday morning, and I am also looking forward to our experience of gathering with the city of Keene on Sunday night to be the love and the light we want our city of Keene to be. In both cases, we'll be coming together to be present to something much bigger than our opinions or viewpoints. Much bigger than our fears. Much bigger, even, than life or death. I hope can be a part of both gatherings!
Note: During ordinary time we are using the readings from "Track 2"