Tag Archives: play

Work, Play and Worship

This week starts a new ministry at Resurrection called Four Square, named after the popular playground game. The four squares of the ministry are explore, play, serve and grow. The children will explore the Bible, serve various needs in the community, play games like four square, and grow in their faith and relationship. Today they actually painted a Nine-Square court in the church parking lot for all to use.

The “play” part of Four Square made me think of a comment that I explored somewhat last year. The idea is that in our American culture we confuse worship, work and play. We worship our work, work at play and play at worship. I know that I can be guilt of each attribute at times.

First we tend to worship our work. Especially men in our society can make their careers the center of their lives. Our whole identity can revolve around our careers and how successful we are within it. Careers often have a clear hierarchy of who is moving up the ladder and who is not. Though God calls us to work in God’s creation, God does not call us to place our career success at the center of our lives. I confess that I can place MY pastoral status ahead of my faithfulness to God’s mission and calling. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Second we can work at our play. In our American culture, we can turn our leisure into a new work obsession. Whether it is fishing, hunting, golf, running, tennis, gardening, woodworking or biking, we can turn what is meant to be restful and renewing into competitive, stressful work. I know that I have at times turned my love of running into an obsession when I am training for a marathon and my whole life begins to revolved around a rigorous training schedule. I have this elusive goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon someday, but my fixation can rob me of the joy of simple running. My recent use of the Phil Maffetone training method has helped me slow down and to enjoy the playful act of running.

Finally we can play at worship, or, in other words, turn worship into entertainment. We measure how effective worship is by how popular the worship service is or how people felt during the service. We get confused about the focus of worship. Worship is not about the worshippers, but about God being central to our lives.

God is not my “cosmic therapist” who makes me feel good about myself, but rather my Creator, Savior and Guide before whom I bow in wonder and adoration. God is God, ruler of the universe. True worship helps me remember and live with God at the center. “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

So today, let us live with God at the center, in our work, play and worship.

Lord Jesus, remain Lord of my life in my work, play and worship.

Playing during Worship

Yesterday during worship, I pitched my small backpacking tent as part of the children’s sermon. I wanted to communicate the ancient Israelite experience of the tabernacle or tent of meeting as being portable. I had practiced setting it up prior to the message and thought I had it ready to go. But my practice session was outside with plenty of space. Inside on Sunday, it was a different story.

The poles are very long, even for a small tent. I was concerned that none of the children be struck by the poles, but I forgot to warn our musicians. As I whipped one pole around to insert into the tent sleeve, I nearly blinded the pianist. Fortunately she has quick hands and avoided any serious damage. I was sweating bullets until the tent finally popped up. After the tent was up I placed our altar Bible in the tent as a reminder of the ark of the covenant which rested inside Israel’s tabernacle.

Of course I wonder if the children made the connection between the Biblical story and our brief experience with a small backpacking tent. Hard to judge. Yet for a moment I saw in their faces a moment of astonishment or surprise when the tent “popped” up. I remember creating tents as a child out of blankets, chairs and small tables. It was a form of play that I enjoyed. I wonder if we had a brief moment of “play” in worship yesterday as the tent sprang up and later as the children walked through it.

In seminary, I remember reading an essay regarding worship, work and play. The article suggested that we sometime confuse the three: we tend to worship work, to work at play, and to play at worship. People often overstress their careers, become too competitive at their leisure activities, and behave lackadaisical at worship. We forget that worship is entering the holy presence of Almighty God.

Still the “play” moment in worship yesterday had a bit of awe and wonder within it. And I trust that God delighted in the children’s joy. I sure did.

How do you sort out work, play and worship?

Lord Jesus, let me find my purpose, my joy, my life in you.