For those not familiar with the BBC tv programme Ready Steady Cook, it is based on chefs being required to produce a meal from sets of ingredients purchased by non-chef participants. Sometimes it looks as though the items were bought with an idea of what might result, sometimes they appear to be a completely random selection.
Preparing a service of worship is never easy. It is difficult enough when one is only confronted with the lectionary readings and, of course, the context in which the worship will take place.
Sometimes though, it feels as though the ingredients presented are so disparate as to make the worship preparers task a real challenge. This last Sunday, deputising for the pastor, was a case in point for me. The lectionary demanded that attention be paid to the transfiguration of Jesus. It was Valentine’s Day – it’s a reality even if you think it is more a commercial than romantic opportunity. The congregation were to be engaged with the youth group’s project for the year – 10:10 (the campaign to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 - www.1010uk.org). For what it’s worth, it struck me that for all the extraordinariness of the experience on the mountain top and the desire to permanently memorialise it, when the disciples returned to everyday life they had not been able to be inspired or empowered to respond to the situation that confronted them. The plaintive complaint of a distracted father to Jesus is a powerful counterpoint to the mountain top – We begged your disciples to do something but they could not.
So my conclusion (at least according to the scrappy notes I preach from – I have no idea what I actually said!) was:
It’s all very well to get romantic on Valentines’s Day but it’s how the relationship works for the other 364 days of the year.
It’s all very well rejoicing in the world we have been given to enjoy but it’s how we live responsibly in it every day.
It’s all very well coming to church and rejoicing how much God loves us but it’s how faith shapes and enables our behaviour the other 6 days, 23 hours each week.
Unless worship is prepared on the Ready Stead Cook principle, attempting to integrate all the ingredients that come from different directions, it will always run the danger of being a great experience (sometimes) but one which makes no difference beyond the moment.