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Just worship

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There’s a lot of ugliness in the world. I’m sure each reader could make their own list of injustices and personal tragedies. Here are several that were current as we were preparing this issue.

The report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released June 3, 2019 – an indictment of Canadian society for acts of genocide. We have at best stood by as violence destroyed both men and women in Indigenous communities already ravaged by colonialism and cultural genocide; at worst, we were the actors who treated other human beings as disposable. The church must listen to the report’s 231 calls for justice. (Read more Reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians, Northern Lights.)

Also in June, Mennonite churches in Manitoba collaborated on a #ChurchToo conference (following the example of Columbia Bible College in B.C. last year), to name, mourn, and work to prevent sexual abuse in churches. A culture of secrecy, hasty forgiveness, and victim blaming has made churches a safe place for abusers and a heartbreaking, re-traumatizing place for victims. Equally or more hurtful than the abuse itself is when the church has silenced or ignored victims. (Read more on page 20.)

Last fall, climate scientists warned that in 12 years, changes to climate patterns will be irreversible, causing ocean level rise, more droughts, more floods, and more extreme weather events. In the months since this announcement, we’ve paid closer attention to the increased incidence of weather disasters in North America and other parts of the world. There’s ugliness in the destruction of environment, livelihood, and lives – especially when those least able to cope and less responsible for the cause are the most affected.

Yet, here we’re talking about worship (Worship takes Shape). Are we just burying our heads in the sand, ignoring the troubles of this world for the promise of the next?

Not necessarily.

Worship has the power to confront injustice.

The Old Testament prophets often condemned the rituals of Israelite worship – not because the rituals were inherently wrong, but because ignoring the needs of their neighbours while giving lip service to God fails to honour the Creator. The people were not in tune with the Love that powers the world. They were using the form of worship to perpetuate injustice instead of demonstrate humility and equality before the Maker.

As a church community, we gather for a purpose that transcends us. Worship is not about meeting our needs, but putting our lives in perspective and surrendering ourselves to something beyond us.

In the weeks following the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square (June 4), members of our Chinese MB family have been standing in solidarity with protestors in Hong Kong concerned about human rights violations stemming from a new extradition agreement with China. The chorus “Sing Alleluia to the Lord” has become the unofficial anthem of the nonviolent protestors in Hong Kong. This act of worship shifts the focus and introduces a spirit of peace in a volatile situation.

In worship, we can quiet our souls to receive perspective on our failures and successes and the grace to face the disjunction between our expectations and the reality we encounter.

Although worship calls us to be co-labourers with Jesus in transforming structures and seeking justice, it also reminds us that it’s not our burden to bear. Worship is a refuge for justice crusaders: it is God who dismantles power, wounds, and hate with truth, healing, and love.

Worship calls us to resist injustice, and equips us to be present with the wounded, while reassuring us that no matter our success or failure, the ugliness doesn’t win.

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