Dr. Seuss and Worship

I have previously discussed in this column the importance of stories as a vital element in corporate worship (see “Missing Stories in Worship”).  Although we could discuss the need for more storytelling in the songs used in worship, I do not want to focus on that in this article.  Nor do I want to discuss how the pastor can read a story of another favorite sports star that has some kind of Christian testimony.  Neither am I interested in considering how to incorporate effective testimonies from members of the congregation.

Although these devices can be effective in certain circumstances, my purpose here is to look more broadly and comprehensively regarding the story of the whole worship service. And this is where Dr. Seuss comes into the discussion.  Dr. Seuss is known, primarily, for his ability to tell stories.  There are few of us who are unfamiliar with the “Whos down in Whoville” (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) or that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” (Horton Hears a Who).  We recognize the striped hat of the Cat in the Hat, and can’t help but wonder if it was Thing One or Thing Two that has wreaked havoc in our house today.

These familiar characters are each part of a story, and alongside those stories are many other stories that we have read ourselves, read to our children and grandchildren, and watched on the screen for many years.  The ability of Dr. Seuss to turn a phrase and craft a quote were truly remarkable.  Whether he used common words, or had to create words of his own, he was the master of the story.

But his stories were not mindless fun.  Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was, in fact, something of an activist.  His “Whos” represented any group of people that was threatened by a more powerful group.  His character, “Yertle the Turtle” showed the truth that anyone, no matter how supposedly insignificant, can make a difference in the world.  And who can forget little Jojo’s famous, “YOPP!” – that helped the world to hear that the Whos were really there? (See the Author page at www.seussville.com)

Where is this kind of storytelling in the Church today?  We certainly have examples in history of men who could tell a story in a painting like Delacroix’s, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, which in one powerful snapshot tells the story of Jacob’s family relocation, the hope of the future promised land, and the night of struggle with the Lord Himself.  Although we know of this painting today, Delacroix painted this piece in a side chapel of the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris.  I’m sure that Delacroix hoped for many eyes to see his masterpiece, yet there it stands from day to day for the enjoyment and contemplation of local worshipers.   We can see it in a photo, but to really experience we must go to Paris.

And this leads to my point:  the worship service of the church each Sunday could be very effective as the place to tell a holistic story each week.  What I mean by this is that the worship service, itself, could be crafted as a re-telling of some aspect of the biblical story.  In fact, we worship on Sundays for this very reason.  Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the dead, and worship in the early church celebrated that resurrection week by week.

This idea is full of possibilities. Obviously, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is a prime story to tell.  The Exodus comes to mind as another significant story.  What about the story of Ruth or Esther?  Or the prophets?  Or the Apostles?  These do not have to be pageants, or special services, but weekly opportunities to make the biblical record come alive.

I realize this may sound like a lot of work to plan and prepare, and I suppose that it might be.  However, the biggest shift will be in your thinking rather than the planning and executing of the service itself.  We could use the same kinds of worship elements that we use today:  songs and choruses, Scripture reading, prayers, video vignettes, etc.  It’s how we might organize those into some kind of whole package that will communicate a story which will be the key to its success.

I’m reminded of one particular definition of art or music as a creative force:  “the way in which all the elements are arranged…into an expressive whole.”  That is what we want from worship, something that is formed and shaped into an expressive whole rather than a hodge-podge of loosely connected things that happen on Sunday morning because they more-or-less have to do with God, Jesus or the Church.

The Bible is a narrative – a long, elaborate story of God’s love for His creation, the loss of goodness, and the redemptive activity of God toward restoration.  It’s my hope that one day the Church might tell that story more effectively from Sunday to Sunday.


(Original Post on August 26, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/21116-dr-seuss-and-worship)


Posted on June 9, 2014, in Arts, Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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