This past week our team tackled a Night of Worship for Ash Wednesday. We generally plan a Night of Worship about 2-3 times per year, but we always make sure we have one for Ash Wednesday. At The Crossing we have people from all kinds of faith backgrounds, and we’ve generally found that Ash Wednesday is a moment to lean into where people’s hearts are open to what God may have to say.
This year, our theme was “The Whisper of God.” We were inspired by one of our teammates that shared a sales technique that draws people in to listen. There’s something about a whisper that gets people interested in what one has to say… as if it were a secret or something extremely exclusive. All of this got us thinking about how God speaks to His people, and how when we pay attention to His voice… we lean in to listen. From this general idea, we planned the service in three movements:
We opened the service with the following video from Igniter:
Then, we followed that with three up tempo songs. But after the greeting and welcome, we transitioned into the second movement of “Listen.”
It’s at this point, that we shared the story of Elijah and the Cave in which God spoke to him in a still, small voice… we had someone share this story of what they had written live on stage with video of a cave behind them. Here’s what they shared:
There are moments where we might find ourselves at our lowest… Desperate for the voice of God. During those times it can feel like God is no where to be found… Completely silent in our time of need.
The prophet Elijah once found himself in such a place. He felt isolated and alone… As if he was the only person among his peers seeking God. And with a death threat looming over his head from queen Jezebel and the dread of another day making it alone … he found himself in a cave much like this…. Wishing death would find him.
During his isolation in the cave, Elijah heard three noisy and destructive things:
Yet in all of these destructive forces, God was absent… Again, no where to be found.
Yet after the fire… there was something else. Something completely contrasting in volume: A still… small… voice. A whisper.
It was the whisper of God that drew Elijah out of the cave of isolation and into the next steps of his calling.
Like Elijah, in our desperation to hear from God during confusing times, we might look deep into the noise around us only to find it void of God. The distractions around us in daily life might draw our attention away from what we really need to pay attention to.
It’s easy to experience the wind, earthquakes, and the fire around us. Hearing the whisper takes something else.
God beckons us to lean in… listen… All it takes is the power of a whisper and the willingness to listen closely to draw us out of isolation and despair.
The question is… Are we listening?
Following two more songs, we had an original spoken word.
Here’s the spoken word text:
You’ve heard of it right? That hole in your soul
You’ve felt it right? That longing for more
That insatiable thirst we can try to ignore
Or indulge in everything, anything
Trying so hard to quench it, but failing
Failing to be truly filled
Always one step from perfect
But our hopes always killed
You know, it’s been said hope deferred makes the heart sick
Still we continually give in to sin’s vicious little trick
lie after lie feeding the hope that sin will satisfy
Then we’re crushed when we realize we’re still empty inside
So God knocks on our hearts saying “I’m all that you need”
While we think our desires are what we need to feed
Because they scream and they pull at us forcing our attention
Why would we hear the whisper of grace filled affection
While we’re searching our world for answers, we find questions
While seeking fulfillment, we find ourselves restless
So right where you find yourself, pause now and listen
A voice whispers to you, a love beyond comprehension
The words He whispers to you won’t be whispered to me
Because He loves you uniquely, He knows what you need
He knows your desires, and the passions of your heart
When we don’t know what to do, He knows where to start
So put all your troubles and fears at His feet
Let’s listen awhile and invite Him to speak
With a desire to know Him, Let His presence fill the airz
Let’s welcome Him here as we pause and prepare
This transitioned into a time of communion. In order to allow as many people as possible to simply enjoy the night and focus on God, we did not serve communion like we usually do utilizing our Guest Services Team. We wanted those that normally serve to just come and participate like everyone else… so we purchased self-serve communion and encouraged everyone to pick it up on their way in, saving it for this moment in the service.
Our Senior Pastor took a moment near the close to give an Ash Wednesday Challenge… His specific challenge was to encourage everyone to create space in their lives for God to move and transform them this Lenten season.
1. There are moments where people are more open than usual to listen to God. The obvious ones are Christmas or Easter, but Ash Wednesday is another. Do not let the moment slip by, but rather help create a moment where God may intersect in people’s lives. They will respond. This is especially true for those who have a liturgical background in their lives and it allows them to return to those roots.
2. Take people on a journey. Do not just throw a service together; think the movements through. They will respond. The emotional journey will connect and lead to a spiritual place.
3. It’s important to remember those that faithfully serve others during worship services. Give them the opportunity to worship freely.