Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Standing thoughtfully and prayerfully beside Stonehenge two weeks ago, as Lynn Ellen and I were traveling in England, I was struck by the vast expanse of time over which humans have been worshiping. Stonehenge is about 5,000 years old, a roughly similar age as the start of the Mesopotamian and of the Egyptian civilizations. St. Paul had a similar recognition when he noted that “Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made” (Romans 1:20).
And humans have not just been worshiping casually. We have been worshiping in ways that required great efforts of organizing people, expending resources, and developing technologies to do things like moving massive stones over long distances and building giant pyramids. We have been worshiping in ways that have left magnificent artifacts we can still see. We have been worshiping in ways that have worked changes upon civilization, even if we cannot know exactly how our world has been changed in the process.
While we may not understand much about the content of such ancient worship, we can reflect upon how our Christian worship stands within this long time span of ongoing religious activities. People have been doing the same kinds of things we now do in worship―praying, singing, making music, and conducting religious ceremonies―as far back in time as we can tell.
We can also try to reflect upon how our Christian worship of today may stand as a basis for future religious activities. We might rightly expect that people will continue doing the same kinds of things we now do in worship―praying, singing, making music, and conducting religious ceremonies―as far ahead in time as we can imagine. No one knows what those might someday look like.
How might such recognition work upon your experience of worship? When you enter into a moment of personal prayer, think of the generations who have prayed in any way before you, and of the generations who will pray after you. When you enter into a church building for communal worship, think of the generations who have worshiped in any kind of sacred space before you, and of the generations who will worship after you. Try to see yourself and your fellow worshipers of today as being at a midpoint in an unbroken continuum of one of humankind’s most enriching and enduring of activities.
The Rev. Bill Queen