On Sunday July 27th our Deacon David Hunt led worship at Wesley Chapel. He explained that the theme that day was ‘The living Church is a worshipping church’. We were going to explore what a living church was. As our opening hymn we sang ‘O Worship the King all glorious above.’ David asked us who we were worshipping. That week in the Methodist Recorder was focussing on imaginative church and spirituality. David asked us what worship is. He asked us what we are doing there at church that morning. There were a number of responses from the congregation such as praise, fellowship, meeting people. He reminded us that worship is primarily for God; God is our creator and we can be part of his creation. We all have preferences in worship and different musical styles. The mystery is how we as individuals worship God and express his ‘worth-ship? The Greek word appears 60 times for worship is ‘proscinea’ which has the image of coming forward to kiss the hand; an image of reverence and humility. David told us how he went down on one knee, kissed her hand and asked Gail to marry him, looking her straight in the eye! In worship we too are to approach in reverence and look towards God giving God time; as his worth is so great.
David led the opening prayers of worship. We then sang ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord,’ before we read Psalm 95 responsively and reflected on the words. God came to give us life in all our fullness as Psalm 95 reflects on shouting praise to a great God, God is our God, an awesome present in our lives. In Acts 2v42-47 shows how they shared all in common as they shared worship. David asked what a living church means. We all have gifts we have and can have unity in diversity.
We then sang ‘Let him to whom we now belong.’ Then he began his sermon on the worshipping church. He had 3 points; to serve others; spread good news of Jesus; and have fellowship. None of these goals will happen without worship and prayer. Our prime purpose is to worship God, listen to God and respond. All Christians are called to worship God in private and publically. Worship is not to be confined to Sunday – all our life is to be an offering to God. Fellowship is not just for this world but also the next. The last verse of ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun’ is a foretaste of praise and worship.
How can we ensure our worship is alive? Through knowledge, worship with others, worship in spirit and truth can change lives. We need to have some knowledge of who God is so we can worship him. The more we discover about his character and love the greater is our worship and our response. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, the disciples and heroes down the centuries, reading the Bible and preaching the Word of God helps us to understand how to act and live each day. God is the leader of his mission on earth. When we are receptive to God’s word his plans and his perspective emerge and the more we learn about God.
We can learn more about God through fellowship with others. The apostles gathered together in the temple or in peoples’ homes. Some people find it easier to get close to God in a room listening to music, or out driving through the Dales, or even alone spending a quiet time in God’s presence. However it is more important to worship together as we are part of the Methodist Connection, the ecumenical movement, Christians worldwide and part of the communion of saints; we are not alone. Refugees from Syria share in communion as do those Chinese Christians in the underground church. We are all joined across the centuries with Jesus, the disciples, John Wesley and across the world today to worship together with God.
We worship in Spirit and truth. The Bible criticises empty religion through the prophets and Jesus criticised the Pharisees for keeping to human traditions and losing the Spirit of the faith. Do the best planned services, singing great hymns and meeting friends bring glory to God, or help us really engage with God the creator? Sometimes they do bring glory to God and help us worship God our creator but at other times it can seem like a cold ritual, or unreal or even fun without faith. Worship changes lives but without holiness or justice it is not accessible. May we offer ourselves completely and continually to God, reminding ourselves of all he is and asking ourselves what response he desires. We need to be still in God’s presence; if we are waiting expectantly in his presence we cannot be unchanged. People will see a transformation in our lives and realise our faith makes a difference. We are not to just immerse ourselves in God’s presence once a week, but everyday. Gradually then as we encounter God through worship, we will begin to understand more of God’s plans, and his mission. May we encounter God daily and allow him to transform our lives.
David then introduced us to a new hymn from ‘Singing the Faith’, our new hymn book. He suggested we read the words together as they summed up all he had been saying. ‘Beyond these walls of worship in the stress and joy of life, can we offer you our bodies as a living sacrifice? Will we keep you at the centre far beyond the Sunday call? Will we turn to you, be transformed by you; still declare you Lord of all? Beyond these walls of worship, in the times of work and rest, will we display your love for all when our faith’s put to the test? When people that surround us deny that you are there, will we display our faith in you – in life, in praise, in prayer? Beyond these walls of worship may your Spirit strengthen us to make the whole of life our worship as we witness to your love. From this hour in your presence send us out now to proclaim that we’ll live our life as a sacrifice to the glory of your name. This hymn was compiled by Ian Worsfold and Paul Wood. The words meant more as we read them instead of singing them; they reinforced David’s message. David led the prayers of intercessions and worship concluded when we sang ‘Fill thou my life, O Lord my God in every part with praise.’ It was a challenging and informative service.