Is Anyone Thirsty?
We humans were made to wander and wait for someone or something to come and capture our hearts, restore our soul, and meet our deepest heart needs. Our lives are combusting with expectation and anticipation, and we're groaning for answers. Jesus knew this about us, better than we do. In fact, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink’” (John 7:37).
The invitation cuts through everything and everyone. It cuts through my experiences in childhood, my failures and successes, my opinions, and my hopes, straight through my journey with Jesus and into the deep core of who I am and who you are. I am thirsty and I need Jesus. I was made for him, and all my life is found in him!
Liturgy: Intersections for the Thirsty
As a liturgist and worship leader, I think often about order and formation in light of the thirsty heart. As a human, I think often about my shaky hands, broken dreams, wandering heart, and thirsty soul.
I like to imagine in ordering a service what it might look or feel like in light of Jesus standing up and crying out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” I imagine people waiting for a hero, a king, an escape, a freedom, a worth to their soul, a joy, a thrill of hope, and an end to their hopelessness. In this pondering I long to find intersections for our thirsty humanity to meet with Jesus the Christ, and I believe that our worship and liturgy on the Lord’s Day can point our thirsty hearts to the beautiful living water.
Over the years I've been a part of charismatic churches, Baptist churches, Episcopal churches, no churches, and reformed churches. I believe at the heart of the Christian church, leaders desire that their people know, love, and walk with Jesus in his mission and find water for their thirsty souls. But many of us find ourselves in occasional extremes. It's easy to see the two ditches that can be created on both sides.
The first ditch of liturgy can turn order into the cold science of theological correctness and seeking to please to the leaders and people of your church. This can train people's minds and inform them how to live biblically, but can leave their hearts and affections cold and wandering. There is beauty in this ditch but there’s more that is needed.
The second ditch is easy to get trapped in as well. This ditch is simply about experience, heart, following the Spirit, inspiration, and once again, pleasing the leaders and people of your church. There is beauty in this ditch also but there’s more that is needed.
As you love and watch over your people’s hearts in liturgy and worship, it's the work of the heart, mind, soul, and strength to keep us out of the ditches and along the beautiful road to Jesus. It's this road that keeps our minds and hearts together, knowing Jesus as he is and pointing our affections along with our brokenness to the power of the Gospel.
Liturgy in and from the Vine
So what do we do to stay on the road to Jesus in our liturgy and worship leading?
As a reformed charismatic, I consistently have to do the work behind the work, or liturgy in the Vine. Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). One of the most helpful things we can do as worship leaders and liturgists is to stay connected to the beautiful life-giving vine, Jesus Christ.
This connection widens our eyes and makes our mouths to drop at the beauty of the gospel in every song or piece of liturgy each Lord’s Day. From the call to worship to the benediction, his life flows in and through us. Jesus is the beginning, centerpiece, and culmination of life and our Lord's Day; Sunday exists around him, for him, and in him.
Ponder, pray, and plan your liturgy in and from the Vine. Jesus is the quenching that every thirsty heart needs… including the worshipping liturgists.
Christ the Center
Worship and liturgy breed many things in the human heart. They bring delight in Jesus that orients our affections to place Him as highest and most beautiful. They create a fountain of meditation on truths that turn lives upside down as we sing and describe the beauty and attributes of Jesus. And they’re a missile that scatters the enemies that oppose us and the gospel.
Through worship, we also see a window to into God's heart, exploring him, beholding Jesus' glory, catching his heart for pursuing his people, and announcing and proclaiming the power of the gospel and all Jesus has accomplished. Worship facilitates gratitude and response to all God is, has done, and will do through Jesus. It’s an anchor that keeps us from being tossed back and forth in this tumultuous world. Worship and liturgy are arrows pointing us to Jesus' heart and his mission to the world that he loves. And finally, worship and liturgy aren’t cold science—they’re how the thirsty heart looks to Jesus, the wild river of life.
Come, Friends: Naked, Poor, and Thirsty
Again Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Each Sunday we call out to the blind, the prodigal, the Pharisee, and the disciple. We attempt through worship and liturgy to offer anchors and arrows that ground us in Jesus and point us in his mission. Our desire is to form Christ in the church, rehearse the gospel, reorient our affections to love Jesus, and to intersect with our family in Jesus and God’s presence.
So what does everyone need across every denomination, color, style, and size dynamic? What do you need as you meet in homes, under bridges, and in bars? We need Jesus. We're all thirsty souls, and in worship and liturgy we say, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). Come, friends, run through Jesus to the Father, naked, poor, blind, and thirsty.
Charlie Hall (@charliehallband) is a songwriter/pastor based in Oklahoma City, where he is the Pastor of Worship Arts and Liturgy at Frontline Church.