Sisters and Brothers,

This is an exciting month in my house, because October marks the start of the Rapid City Rush hockey season!

The first time I ever went to a hockey game was only two years ago.  I took a bunch of kids and families from the Custer Community Church to “Faith Night” – a special game the Rush host every year which is opened with prayer and to which lots of churches’ youth groups are invited.  After one game, I was hooked.  Pam and I were back in the stands the very next week.

If you’ve never been to a Rush hockey game, you should go some time.  Try it at least once.  But if it is your first Rush game, you’ll soon realize that you don’t know the hockey liturgy.  That’s right.  There’s a hockey liturgy.

So here’s a primer for you.  Immediately after the Rush score a goal, the “Hey Song” by Gary Glitter will play, and when it reaches the crescendo everyone sings, “Hey, Go Rush!”  When the announcer gives the rundown of who scored the goal, he’ll end with “Whoop! Whoop!” to which everyone in the stands will reply with “Whoop! Whoop!”  Whenever an opposing team’s player is released from the penalty box, the announcer will say that the opposing team is at “full strength,” to which everyone in the stands will reply with “You still suck!”

It’s call and response.  It’s liturgy.  Not unlike when a pastor stands at the front of a church and says, “The Lord be with you,” and everyone instinctively echoes, “And also with you.”  Or when the pastor says “God is good,” and everyone replies with “… all the time.”

There’s something special about liturgy.  It gives a meditative focus to our worship.  It unites us in spirit as we speak aloud together.  But most of all, it allows us to say words of worship simply out of habit.  And I actually think that can be a good thing.

I obviously hope that you’re paying attention in worship and not just spacing out.  But sometimes we come to church, and we just aren’t feeling it.  Maybe we’re tired.  Maybe we’re distracted.  Maybe we’re brokenhearted.  Maybe we’re just struggling to place our faith in God at that particular moment in our lives.  But the liturgy elicits words of praise from us, anyway.

The word “liturgy” literally means “the work of the people.”  Throughout our worship service, there will be parts for me to say and parts for you to say.  Our Call to Worship and our Commission are read responsively, where I speak a sentence or two and then you speak a sentence or two.  And, sometimes, saying those words is hard for us because we just aren’t feeling it.  It actually takes work to get the words out.  But a mature Christian is marked by holding onto faith in the midst of doubt.  As a man once said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!”

When the Rapid City Rush are trailing, even when they’re trailing by a lot, people still yell “Whoop! Whoop!” every time a goal is scored.  In the same way, one of the best things about liturgical worship is that it lets us speak the words of faith even as we struggle with our faith until, eventually, we get back to a point where we can praise God with our whole hearts.

Rev. Dustin Bartlett