What comes to mind when you hear the word worship?
A lot of us, when put on the spot, would say that worship is about music. We have images of guitars or pipe organs, Hillsong or church choirs. But the Bible tells us that worship isn’t limited to music alone.
Paul writes in Romans 12, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” This means that everything we do, if done for the glory and honour of God, is worship.
Today, Stephan (my editor) and I are once again visiting the Serpent River First Nation. Ahead of us lies a week of fun, hard work, and service, all of which are opportunities for worship.
So, we’re gonna try something new. Stephan, also an artist, runs a project called Broken Mirrors, which saw him create visual artistic reflections on Bible passages and themes, and for this week, we are collaborating to put into pictures the way we see worship each day, as we work and play with the children of Serpent River.
Check back every day this week for updates, look forward to an overall reflection on what worship means to us next weekend, and please consider praying for us and our team.
We’re so excited to see–and share–what God is gonna do this week!
Drawing Near – Day 1 (Monday, August 5, 2019)
Today, being a holiday in Canada, was still a day of relative rest, compared to the stress of the next few days. We spent a lot of the day at the local beach, Stockwater, playing with children from the community and our fellow teammates. Early in the afternoon, one of our team members, sitting on a chair submerged in the water, joked about sitting on water, just as Jesus had walked on it. The fact that even our jokes bleed Jesus is a silly little thing, but it makes me think about what it really means to have Jesus as the centre of our lives. Yeah it’s silly–the rest of the time was too–but in these moments of fun, laughter, vulnerability, and friendship, we worship.
Drawing Near – Day 2 (Tuesday, August 6, 2019)
Today was the first day of daycamp and boy did it go off with a bang. Hypothetically, it probably wouldn’t have been hard to pick a moment of worship to reflect on today amidst the Jesus-centred camp fun, but boy oh boy was it hectic. What that means is that the standout moment has ended up being a quieter one. In the afternoon, after most of the kids went to the park, I (Cricket) stayed back with some of the older campers and we did some cooking together, our goal being chicken alfredo. While we’re not gonna win Master Chef any time soon, this time of collaboration and teaching meant a lot to me, and really reminded me what a Christ-centred attitude looks like in this kind of work. We were gathered around food–not so unlike Jesus and his disciples on that Last Supper or Resurrection Fish Fry–enjoying each other’s company, and looking to the future, where relationships may have grown, and skill may have been learned. And in doing so, we worshipped.
Drawing Near – Day 3 (Wednesday, August 7, 2019)
This past year, the Serpent River community installed a play park behind the lifestyle centre that serves as our shelter and base of operations for camp. For the kids, it’s an oasis. They always wanna play on that thing–and when they blaze through whatever activity we leaders have planned, it’s a good fallback for us as well. I’ve been working with one child, Jonny (not his real name), who has anger management issues. He’s been better this year, but still flew off the handle a few times a day. Today however, as we played at the park together, and I pushed him on the swing, he was comfortable with me, and happy as could be. We’ve been reminded many times this trip that, more than words or actions, people remember how you made them feel. We’re here to build relationships because we care about these children and their community, just like Jesus does. In his ministry on Earth, he spent so much time building relationships–pouring into his disciples and spending time with them. Relationships take patience and dedication–no one time on the swings will show a child how much Jesus loves them–but I’m happy to have the opportunity to follow my king and build relationships in his image. I love the moment and look to the future, and in doing so, I worship.
Drawing Near – Day 4 (Thursday, August 8, 2019)
Today we had communion, which is probably one of the easier places to see worship. However, this time, we were encouraged to try it a slightly different way. Rather than the typical delivery of bread and wine from the front of the church, each member of our team took a full slice of bread and a cup of wine (aka grape juice) and walked around the room serving each other. Each time our eyes met another’s, we took a minute to say what difference Christ’s life, death, and resurrection has made in our lives before tearing off a piece of our own slice and serving it to the other person. I’ve never understood so quickly and so wholly the power of Jesus to bring people together. We, an already fairly diverse team, came from all over the world, from all different stories, through so many trials, and through death itself with Jesus to a new life here and now, one which sees us sharing his love so far from home with people who are just as unique as us. And together, we worship.
Drawing Near – Day 5 (Friday, August 9, 2019)
Today was the last day of daycamp, which made for a lot of emotions, both positive and negative. I’m going to miss these kids, and this community, a lot, but I’m hopeful for the future. Not only has the growth in the kids this year made me excited to come back for years to come, but I have also seen firsthand how Jesus is impacting these kids’ lives. After lunch, I was hanging out with the older campers, doing some more cooking, and one of them asked if we could listen to one of the songs we sing in the morning: Jesus You’re My Superhero. I was surprised, but obliged. What followed was almost half an hour of these teens, who usually act to cool to sing with everyone else, absolutely jamming out to this simple song about Jesus’ awesomeness. It was amazing. In Acts 17, Paul tells the people of Athens that, as they’ve been worshipping at the shrine to “The Unknown God,” they’ve really been worshipping the God of the Bible. I don’t know if those teens today understand who Jesus is. I don’t know how much God has moved in their hearts. I don’t know if they’ll ever come to know the joy, forgiveness, and beauty that I’ve found in Christ. But what I saw today was worship, and maybe like the first drop of rain or the first strike of thunder, it signals something much bigger on the way. For that I will pray, and in that, we worship.
Drawing Near – Day 6 (Saturday, August 10, 2019)
Yesterday, we wrapped up our trip to Serpent River by attending the annual Pow Wow celebration. Always an awesome experience, this year’s Pow Wow was made even better by the surprise tribute: just before our team left for Toronto, the chief herself invited us onto the Pow Wow field to participate in a sacred Honour Song for our team and our efforts over our ten years of relationship with the community. Honestly, words cannot express what it felt like to dance around the circle to the drums, as the children we love so much streamed in from all sides with their families to join us. It was beyond amazing. It was also a great summation of our week on the whole, which is part of the reason I’m writing about it for the conclusion to this series. This week, we really got to see some of the results that the team has been hoping and praying for since the beginning. Parents who once dropped off their kids without so much as a word or refused to allow the name of Jesus to be spoken in their home, now want to engage with us, and want us to engage with their children. So many parents have expressed how much it means for us to be in their children’s lives, and how much they want us to continue to be there–if you’re a parent, you know how much that means. Likewise, the way that the kids have warmed to us, and even, as one little girl expressed, wish we didn’t have a way to get back to Toronto, so we could live in Serpent River instead, is truly humbling. I feel like some of us share her sentiment. I never want us to overstep our bounds–there is a reason why colonists carrying stories of Jesus were viewed with suspicion by the Serpent River community a decade ago. The moment we forget the pain that has been caused in Jesus name, and the pain that still continues which we directly or indirectly benefit from as non-indigenous Canadians, then we have failed in any mission of reconciliation, and moreover have failed to love. I am so grateful for the way that the people of Serpent River have welcomed us into their lives–into their culture, traditions, and homes–over and over again. In the past, Christians have stormed the walls of indigenous culture, angry at what they perceived to be idolatrous and seeking to instill love by force–an idiotic contradiction to say the least. I hope that in every glimpse I am granted into these wonderful peoples’ lives, I follow James’ lead, being “quick to listen” and “slow to speak.” It’s a privilege to build relationships. It’s a privilege to share stories and lives. It’s a privilege to be welcomed and loved in this way, but it’s a necessity to greet this welcome with compassion, focusing on the things that bring us together over the things that drive us apart. It is through living aware of this privilege, leaning into love, and trusting in Christ that we become a living sacrifice. This is what makes worship more than a song. And it is in this that we worship.