In the 1940s, at Thornbury Methodist Church in Bradford, there would always be 2 or 3 rows of young people at the back of the church for Sunday evening worship. They were not particularly religious - but where else were they to go on a Sunday night in the 1940s?
One Sunday evening a friend and I dared each other to sit on the front row, im-mediately beneath the pulpit, in an effort to discomfit the preacher. This was in spite of the fact that I knew my mother would be leading the choir onto the rostrum and would glare at me mercilessly, and would tell me off when we got home - but for some unknown reason my mother didn't appear at church that night, so I escaped both the glare and the telling off!
In a teenage flush of bravado, we were trying to disrupt the worship - but what is worship? One definition is GIVING GOD HIS WORTH, so let's start with that, and see where it leads.
As with Bible Reading and Prayer, the touchstone of worship is Jesus, and St Paul reminds us that JESUS CHRIST IS THE VISIBLE LIKENESS OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, so it is to Him that we offer our worship.
WORSHIP is GIVING God our ADORATION. This is what the Wise Men were doing when they knelt before Jesus and offered Him the most precious commodities of the ancient world - gold, frankincense and myrrh. In our worship, the poetry and music of the service help us to express the inexpressible; better than ordinary prose, poetry helps us to express wonder and delight, shame and sorrow, hope and aspiration. It can transport us to the very gates of heaven and bring us to the feet of Jesus. We are helped to sense the glory that words cannot express; our hearts are warmed, our souls thrilled and we catch a glimpse of the Glory of God, and give Him our adoration.
WORSHIP is GIVING God our ATTENTION. We are here to listen to scripture and its exposition by the preacher, to deepen our understanding and our commitment to Jesus and His ways.
Don't worry if you can't remember last week's sermon - how many memorable meals can you remember? 2 or 3 in a lifetime. But you can't exist on 2 or 3 memorable meals in a lifetime - you need 3 ordinary meals every day to keep you going! And so it is with the life of the Spirit - 2 or 3 sermons in a lifetime may stick in your mind, but you need one ordinary sermon every week to sustain you on the journey of life (2 Tim 3:16).
WORSHIP is GIVING God our ATTRIBUTES. In worship we find ourselves face to face with Jesus and we realise nothing we have or are is our own, and we find ourselves committing all we have and are to Him. (Rom 12) So whatever gifts and graces we have, we commit to Him to be perfected and used to His glory and the good of others (Mark 10:45).
As human beings we also have ANXIETIES - cares and worries for ourselves and others - these are also ATTRIBUTES we must offer to God, for how threadbare life would be if we did not have compassion for one another. And amazingly, as we lay our anxieties at His feet, so we find ourselves sustained, strengthened and upheld (Ps 46, Matt 11:28).
WORSHIP is also RECEIVING from God PEACE and GRACE. Grace is God's unconditional love for us and for all humanity (1 John 4:10), as revealed in the nail-marked hands of Him who 'flung the stars into space' (John 3:16). Peace is receiving forgiveness for our stupidities and knowing that we are forgiven (Eph 1:7, John 14:27). This doesn't lead to arrogance but to humility and a readiness to serve (Eph 4:24).
Worship is RECEIVING PURPOSE from God. There is an old chorus that goes like this:
Be like Jesus this my song, in the home and in the throng.
Be like Jesus all day long, I would be like Jesus.
This is the whole of our purpose in life, this is PUTTING ON CHRIST (Rom 13:14), this is loving God and our neighbour as ourselves, this is life's higher calling.
Worship is RECEIVING POWER from God. In spite of the trials and tribulations of life, in the warm embrace of Jesus we find comfort, joy and hope as we are empowered to live a Christ inspired life (2 Tim1:7, Eph 6:11). We put on the whole armour of God and face life boldly drawing strength and power from the promise of Jesus. "I am with you always, to the end of time" (Matt 28:20).
So, let us sum up our thoughts on worship in the words of the familiar Christmas hymn:
What shall I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet, what I can I give Him - give my heart.
If you feel a call to preach, or to be a Worship Leader, please speak to me, or to Elizabeth Holmes, who is the secretary of the Circuit Preachers' Meeting.
Rev Bernard Dodd,
Written by the Minister & Members