When I was at synagogue this morning, I was quite inspired by...
Wait...synagogue? Yes, you heard me right.
Charissa's Sociology of Religion class required that she attend a service of another religion. We chose Congregation Beth-Israel in Overland Park.
This was definitely the most awkward I've ever felt entering a religious service in my life. I primarily didn't want to offend anyone and wasn't sure just how to worship God in this venue without compromising my own beliefs. Fortunately one of the men gave me a play-by-play of what was going on. This was greatly beneficial because this was an Orthodox congregation, which means 90% of the service was in Hebrew.
I picked up on a few things though that made me very sad about how Christians act. First, part of the ceremony (what I would call the central climax) was a reading from the Torah (the first 5 books in the Bible, given to Moses). However, this wasn't as easy as saying "Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy chapter 20..." Instead, several prayers lead to the opening of the ark whence the Torah scroll was taken from. Then someone carried the Torah around the room, and everyone touched the scroll then kissed whatever they had touched it with (hand, prayer book, etc.). Then the reading (3 chapters long) was read in 7 sections with a prayer in between each one. My guide told me that they welcome Torah as if welcoming a member of the family. What struck me was the absolute reverence that these adherents showed God's Word. When we read Scripture in church, it is buried in a sermon or between singing in prayer, and half of the people don't even pay attention. How would our services change if our hearts were that attuned to the Word that God had given us. For further well-written discussion on this topic, please go here.
The second thing that struck me was when someone described what the Sabbath usually looked like for them. Of course it begins on Friday night at sunset, and many attend a candle lighting service for this. Then some men go to classes around 6 or 7 in the morning on Saturday. Synagogue itself begins at 9, but people trickle in until 10, and it usually lasts till noon. Then the main celebration starts! Kiddush follows the service, which is primarily booze, snacks, and loud talking (as my new friend described). Then they go home, play games and enjoy each others' company. This is the primary focus of Sabbath. Synagogue is only to remind them to give some time to God, which they have already been doing all week. The day mainly serves as a time to praise God and enjoy friends and family. What an amazing goal!
The third thing that caught my attention was almost mentioned in passing. Many of the prayers and readings done in Synagogue on the Sabbath are the same readings they do every day of the week. However, on the Sabbath, they remove any prayers of request and insert prayers of praise. What a contrast to Christianity! We primary come to church to complain and beg God to give us what we need! What if we gave the whole day solely to praise him, then did our begging throughout the week when we have our regular conversations with him? How would we change.
What a challenge!