Come, let us bow down and worship him; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Psalm 95:6 GNT
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Matthew 28:17 MSG
It is Ascension Day this week. It falls on the 6th Thursday after Easter and marks the day that Jesus finally left his disciples and ascended into heaven. Their reaction when they saw him, at the appointed time and place, was to worship him.
Worship is a key part of our journey of faith. It has been described by George Skamstrad as:
“Worship is the process whereby we thank, we praise, we honor, we confess, we celebrate, and we purpose to the God of all life through his Son, Jesus Christ, that we are his daughters and sons. Therefore, worship is filled with ingredients which allow us to focus and to express our love and appreciation: singing, giving, praying, reading, teaching, preaching, enacting, responding, baptizing, dedicating, communing, partaking, and sharing.”
We can worship God in variety of ways and in different settings; on our own, in small groups, and corporately in church services.
However, over the past year the Corona Virus Pandemic has resulted in many communal church gatherings being curtailed.
Here in the UK, as we follow the government’s road map out of the pandemic, the restrictions are gradually being eased, allowing gatherings which adhere to the current guidelines.
As you reflect on the ways you personally worship God,
- how have these changed over the course of the pandemic and
- how do you feel about returning to church?
While church services have moved online, and provided an easy way to visit other churches, as in-person gatherings gain momentum, now is the time to consider returning to a physical location. Ryan Diaz in a recent article suggests that there are three compelling reasons to do so;
Corporate worship forces us to de-centre ourselves
We find ourselves living in the age of consumerism, and at a time where algorithms carefully curate the information we see online. This panders to our likes and dislikes. If we are not careful, our personal preferences can spill over into our views about church.
Our commitment to Christ, His Cause and His Church, in a changing and often challenging world needs to be firm and steadfast. We are not designed to be one man/woman bands, taking the journey of faith alone and isolated from our fellow believers. C.S.Lewis summed up this viewpoint well:
“When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; … I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realised that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realise that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”
By gathering together, we have the opportunity to lay aside our preferences and to participate and engage in worship with our fellow believers.
Corporate worship dismantles the false-self
While online church enabled us to connect with our faith community, it can be a pale imitation of the real connectedness that results from in person contact and communication.
Being together allows us to build relationships and to be real and honest with those we gather with.
Corporate worship reminds us of the interconnectedness of human life
After the Last Supper, Jesus spoke to his disciples about unity. (John 17:22-23) In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul writes: You are the body of the Anointed One, and each of you is a unique and vital part of it. We are all needed and necessary to the body of believers to which we belong.
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:22-25 Msg