Tonight we are discussing Chapter 4: “Worship!” of the Rev. Scott Gunn’s book: The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus. This lesson is online and on Facebook. This chapter ends with a discussion of how do we worship.
First, worship takes place wherever and where we necessarily sense the immediate presence of God. In Celtic Christianity, these are called thin places. Throughout Scripture, we see these thin places. These places are often natural – on a mountain (Ex. 3; 1 Kings 19:12), beside a river (Gen. 22:38, Ezek. 1:1), or simply under a tree (Gen. 18:1; 1 Kings 19:5). We have all experienced those natural places where the firmament between heaven and earth is almost non-existent.
However, throughout Scripture, places set aside for worship are almost always thin. One of the first things that Moses does after receiving the Law is to set up the Tabernacle as a place where God may dwell in their midst. Ex. 25:8. Later, the Temple served the same function. 1 Kings 8:13. In the Temple dedication, Solomon recognized that God could not be contained within a building, but nonetheless recognized that this building would be that place where God could necessarily be found. 1 Kings 8:27.
For each of us, therefore, the question is where do you sense the immediate presence of God? Where do you go to find God?
The first part of worshipping is to be in the right place. But worship is seldom a solitary activity. Within Christian history, solitary monastics (i.e. hermits) would live their lives alone, yet would still gather for worship. As our Catechism states, worship is intended to be a communal activity where we unite ourselves with others. 1979 BCP 857. In the very first description of the Church immediately after Pentecost, we are told that the new followers of Jesus fellowshipped and gathered together in worship. Acts 2:42, 46. For as Jesus tells us “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them.” Matt. 18:20. Although in-person gathering is not always possible, it is the norm. As Rev. Gunn states “We need to get ourselves to church.” p.70.
At least for me, I have been to church, with others, and recited the prayers all without really worshipping. I do not doubt God’s ability to awaken each of us from a spiritual slumber as he did upon Saul or Paul. 1 Sam. 10:10, Acts 9:3. However, worship generally requires some preparation (although sometimes that preparation takes place after the service has already started).
In our collection of Prayers, there is a prayer “Before Worship” which says “Deliver us, when we draw near to you, for coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections, we may worship you in spirit and truth.” 1979 BCP 833. When we come to worship, we need to have those spiritual practices to warm the heart and focus the mind. For me, my short practices are to (1) try not to leave the cares and news of the world alone before church (2) try not to talk about church business before the service, and (3) sit quietly before the service. One reason I like to sit up front in church is that it is easier to avoid distractions there.
For tonight, think about and share how you prepare your heart and mind for worship.
Centrality of Worship:
Rev. Gunn ends this chapter with a brief discussion about how worship is central to the Way of Love. There are seven ways of Love, and “Worship” is the one in the fulcrum. He writes that “worship is the glue that holds our spiritual practices together.” p.72. Within our spiritual journey, turn, learn, and pray lead us to worship; and worship allows us to bless, go, and rest. But it is also within our worship itself where the other six ways are found: we turn in the confession, we learn in the scripture readings and homily, we pray throughout the service, we bless as we make our offerings, we rest in the very presence of God, and we go in the dismissal. Worship is where our life in Christ comes together.
Rev. Gunn ends his chapter on “Worship” with the following questions:
1. When is a time you worshipped in a way that helped you grow in your faith?
2. What keeps you from worshipping more readily?
3. What might you do to worship in new ways, more often?
Dinner is at 6. The menu is fajitas and margaritas (Cinco de Mayo observed). Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here!
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *Psalm 96:9-11
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King! *
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.