In seminary, my classmates and I, in our class on worship and preaching, heard almost ad nauseum the metaphor of worship being like a meal at which we find nourishment. June Alliman Yoder, Marlene Kropf and Rebecca Slough (two of whom were the professors of said class) write in their book Preparing Sunday Dinner: A Collaborative Approach to Worship and Preaching,
It's an apt analogy and one I like with regards to worship, especially because often our worship is literally before or around the Lord's table. I also like this analogy because I like to make the preparations. Just as I literally like to prepare food for my family or for guests or bake cookies with my daughter. And I like the results - whether its a meal enjoyed with others or worship well 'cooked' the participation in these activities gives me joy.
If Sunday worship is the meal that nourishes and sustains individual Christians as well as the Christian community, then it is vital that leaders understand how to prepare and serve this meal. If this is the meal that keeps Christians alive, that delights our souls, that creates a context for fellowship and celebration, and that sustains the church's work and witness in the world, then we must cultivate skill in the kitchen as well as capacities for hosting and serving on the part of worship planners, preachers music leaders and other in worship ministry.
What I don't like is clean-up. It's as true of my culinary endeavors as it is of worship. I mean the physical clean up: putting away the candles and the table runners, vacuuming up the crumbs from Communion. I can be forgetful or neglectful about cleaning up on Sundays, to the annoyance of our facilities manager. And I am often a procrastinator.
But, since I am quickly approaching my sabbatical, I have made it my summer goal to reorganize the worship supply room, take inventory and restock. We have a beautiful (from my perspective at least) and well stocked space for worship supplies including candles and holders, vases, cloths in many colors, rocks, leaves, various types of stands and holders for things. All this can get into a bit of a jumble, however organized the space began and I spent the better part of the day today pulling out clothes and banners to see which have to go to the dry cleaner to get the wax removed, pulling out broken candle stubs from votives, sorting things into categorized bins.
I commented to Marian (the aforementioned facilities manager) that it would be nice if a volunteer would take on this task. And yet, I realized that cleaning up is as important a part of the worship cycle as preparing the table on Sunday morning. In addition to the joy of peeling melted wax off the sides of candles, I am receiving the gift of an afternoon away from my computer (so much for that...blog, blog, blog), the satisfaction of neatly organized shelves, and I am preparing in a different way than when I lay out the elements for Communion on a Sunday morning or light the candles on the worship table. I am making a space inviting and orderly for others who will use it in the next year. I hope I am making the space and its contents easy to use and accessible so that others will be able to prepare 'Sunday dinner' in my absence. May God's blessing be on the clearing up as it is in the setting out.