LENTEN REFLECTIONS

DOES YOUR CHURCH NEED A DOCTOR – 4

Though meeting with God occurs through personal prayer, meditation and individual  Bible reading, it is only when the people of God meet together week by week that worship in its fullest sense takes place.  If we neglect to meet together, whether it is in the grand setting of some great cathedral or in the back street church of “St. Gertrude by the Gas Works”, we become spiritually arid in ourselves, we have nothing of lasting value to offer the world and we dishonour God.  Worship means ‘worthship’ which is the honouring of God.  (Ps. 96, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory that is due to his name”). 

William Temple’s definition of worship captures the length, breadth and depth of what it should be.  Worship in its fullest sense must make us itch and want to scratch at the point of our deepest need.  Be it in our hymns, prayers, or preaching it must take us from where we are to where God wants us to be.  Worship is both an acknowledgement of the ‘worth’ of God and a calling out of the worshipper a response..  In our declaring of what we believe about God we should find ourselves changed into something of his likeness.  Worship is the life blood of everything that we seek to do and from it  springs  our call to mission and  outreach.  It’s outcome should be, in the words of Charles Wesley

What we have felt and seen
With confidence we tell
And publish to the ends of the earth
the signs infallible”,
 

How then do we ‘do’ worship?  This question in the contemporary church is the cause of much division.  Traditionalists and Progressives fight worship wars that divide congregations down the middle and disrupt the harmony of the church community.  My thoughts on this leave me frustrated and confused.  I can only reflect that,” The Church is a divine instituation  administered by humans”.  It may be that an increase in graciousness toward each other would help heal our self-inflicted wounds.  The people of Jesus’ day, who most singularly failed to understand and accept his revelation of God where the religious folk who were blind and deaf to anything that challenged their preconceived ideas and assumptions.  The power of  gospel does not lie just in dogmatic assertions but rather in its winsomness and attractiveness.  Jesus over and over again both challenged and ignored some of the religious practices of his day.  Outside of the church of his day, he walked and talked with people and “Loved them into the kingdom”.  He identified with them in the nitty-gritty of their everyday lifes and got alongside them at the point of their greatest needs.  If our worship is just a re-run of ‘All our Yesterdays’  it becomes trapped in an historical ‘time-warp’ of our own making.

“If we serve a Living Saviour
who is alive today
Why in much of what we say
Do we paint him grey.”

If our worship is to be infectious and compelling it must have  the vibrancy and vitality of Jesus’ personality.  Let our worship be then a joyful  celebration  of our faith and of the presence of God in the world.

“Dream Church

This is the Church of my dreams –
The Church of the warm heart,
Of the open mind,
Of the adventurous spirit;
The Church that cares,
That heals hurt lives,
That comforts old people,
That challenges youth;
That knows no divisions of culture or class;
No frontiers, geographical or social,
The Church that inquires as well as affirms,
That looks forward as well as backward;
The Church of the Master,
The Church of the people;
High as the ideals of Jesus,
Low as the humblest human;
A working Church,
A worshipping Church,
A winsome Church;
A Church that interprets truth in terms of truth;
That inspires courage for this life and hope for the life to come;
A Church of courage;
A Church of all good men –
The Church of the Living God.”

  (Anon. Found in “Flowing Streams” compiled by Donald Hilton).

John R.

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