As we return to regular worship in church, I would like us to think about what worship really means. Nobody forces us to worship. Worship is freely given. We do not worship because God is some egomaniac but in response to all that God has done, for instance, God’s miracles. God’s first miracle was creating the world, and another was sending Jesus to die for our sins so that we can reconcile with God and enjoy that relationship.
Worship is not just singing songs. As Romans 12:1 says, worship is offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices. We worship because God is the creator, the deliverer and the provider. We worship because we are hard-wired to do so. In today’s society, where God is often not acknowledged, we have the cult of the celebrity, or we worship money or status. Worshipping God is an acknowledgement of something being over and above human life.
We worship to offer God something of ourselves. We pray not to change God’s mind but for our minds to be changed. We pray to align our thoughts with God’s and to self reflect. We try to respond in a way God wants us to respond and ask for things that we know God wants us to ask. So, there is adoration in worship, there is a conversation in worship, and there is the giving of ourselves in worship.
One thing Covid-19 has shown us is that we do not need a building in order to worship. I asked a friend, "what is art?" She told me, if art is made with the intention of being art, then it is art. The same goes for worship. If what you do is set out to be worship, then it is worship. Even if you are cleaning the dishes or walking in the park, if your mind is in a state of worship, then it is worship.
Worship allows us to be aware of God working in our lives. It is having the time and space to allow God to speak to us but also allows ourselves to feel the presence of God. God wishes to make us more like Jesus, the supreme example of love. Freely given, love is an outpouring of yourself, like having a cathartic experience.
Worship is about surrendering everything to God with all our heart, mind and strength. Whilst singing is an emotional response, and singing was very much a part of life in the temple and Judaism, it is not all that worship is, but it can help us understand something of the mystery of God. When you are wrapped up in music, it transcends words, which is why music is important. But worship is not all about singing. As already said, worship is giving 100% of yourself to God as a living sacrifice.
We worship because it is good for us. In a busy world, worship creates space for an hour or so when we are not distracted by email or social media. We allow ourselves to be wrapped in the above and beyond. Worship gives us an attitude of gratitude. Instead of being me me me, worship lets us focus on thankfulness. Worship is good for us because it provides a sense of perspective. By nature, we are designed to worship, and worshipping God allows us to direct it in the right place.
So, that is worship. Worship is our relationship with God, but it is enhanced when worshipping with others. So, in returning to church, we find strength, not only in the testimony of others and discovering how God is working in their lives but by giving us a sense of community. Take, for example, a lump of barbecue coal. Without other coals, a single one will go out. Yet, with other coals that are alight, it creates fire. Nonetheless, whilst corporate worship is important and worshipping in a building is important, it is not vital. Worship is about giving everything you are to a God who has created a universe for us, and for responding to God’s love, feeling God’s presence, and surrendering to that love and being transformed into all that God created us to be.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon