On Sunday November 15th Rosemary Green a local preacher from our chapel led worship at Wesley Chapel. Her worship which had the theme of worship began when we sang ‘Sing to the Lord a joyful song.’ Rosemary led the opening prayers before we sang, ‘It passeth knowledge that dear love of mine’. Christine, our worship leader read Psalm 96 and from Revelation 4. We sang ‘Come let us join our cheerful songs’ before Rosemary preached.
She based her sermon on the phrase from Psalm 96.9a; ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.’ Rosemary looked up the definition in a dictionary: homage or reverence paid to a deity especially in a formal service, acts, rights and fellowship of worship. Worship in a church like our Methodist Church is to offer praise and prayer, where God’s word is preached and prayed. We come to worship our Lord, Master, Ruler and King of Kings. We can worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; in the RSV version in holy splendour. It reminds us of Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God with angels, and archangels, that God is worthy to receive honour. The beauty of our surroundings seems to speak to us of something greater than ourselves. Rosemary told us of her holiday in a small village of Tissingham, where there was an enormous church with stain glass windows; the atmosphere made her feel as though she wanted to worship God. She knew a plain Methodist Chapel with a capacity for about 50 worshippers with white walls which was clean and tidy; there too she felt an atmosphere of worship.
People who come to coffee at our chapel often want to say a prayer in the chapel, as they find the atmosphere inspiring. We don’t need to depend on such places of worship. At one time when, as a young local preacher she stepped into a new place to lead worship, she felt was among worshippers upholding her and each other. The splendour of holy array reflected the priestly robes in worship. Exodus gave great details of the robes used by priests like Aaron. I grew up in the Church of England and was used to the priests wearing robes. We used to wear Sunday best clothes, which is not so prevalent now. At one time you needed to wear a hat to church. The Living Bible translates the verse as: worship him with the beauty of holy lives; we need to clothe ourselves with compassion and let the beauty of Jesus be seen in us. There is a hymn which includes the phrase ‘till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
What do we learn from Jesus about worship? He went to a synagogue on the Sabbath, occasionally preached, and sang psalms. There would be prayers and scripture readings, and someone would expound on a passage of scripture. Jesus would have celebrated Passover and Pentecost, and other Jewish festivals. There were no details about how Jesus would have led an act of worship. However he did warn the worshippers to be reconciled with an estranged brother or sister before offering a gift to God. Rosemary remembered the wording in the old order of the service of communion; ye who are in love and charity with your neighbours worthy to worship…. We are challenged to come to worship, having resolved all conflicts and thus prepared to worship God.
We sang, ‘O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,’ before Christine, our worship leader led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘Make me a channel of your peace’, when we remembered the terrorist attacks in Paris. Learning to worship helped us offer the prayers for those bereaved and injured and to continue to work for peace and justice in our messed up world.