“Let us worship God” and, with these familiar words, the weekly service begins. An hour later – or even longer if the preacher gets carried away! – the service ends with yet more familiar words of blessing.
Yet is this really just what worship is about? One hour out of the 168 that make up a week? A relatively brief interlude before we return to whatever it is that occupies most of our time? Or, perhaps even worse, is our understanding of worship confined to just singing together, as when someone, frequently referred to as ‘a worship leader’, says something like ‘We’re now going to have a time of worship as we sing some songs’?
Don’t get me wrong; coming together for worship with other believers is hugely important. The songs we sing together, the prayers we share together, the teaching we receive together, all help to build us up in an environment of mutual encouragement. Coming together promotes our own journeys of discipleship for, left to our own devices, we’d probably ‘go off the boil’ sooner or later. But what of the other 167 hours?
Unsurprisingly, Jesus often offers us insights about worship. One of the most telling comes from the temptation narrative as told in both Matt 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. At one point the devil shows Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world”, promising to give them over if only Jesus will worship his tempter. It is a temptation which has ruined many – ‘fame, fortune, power, wealth can all be yours, if only …’, but Jesus responds by affirming the call to worship and serve only God.
What’s really interesting about this encounter is how it shows that worship, properly understood, is about our inner attitudes. It’s really about where we place our trust and hope, and to whom we pledge loyalty and devotion – which is why Jesus mentions service and worship in the same breath. What we do on a Sunday is only a part of our worship, but it flows from walking with God and putting our trust in him every day of our lives. This is what’s behind the URC’s emphasis upon missional discipleship, this is what it means to be ‘Walking the Way: Living the Life of Jesus Today’, this is what it means to be a disciple in the 21st century.
So, yes, let us worship God – but let’s do so in our homes, our places of work, our schools, our colleges, our pubs, our neighbourhoods, our communities, our world!
Rev Jim Coleman, Synod Development Officer