My original idea for my column this week was to focus on in-person worship and what people can expect. Rather than rehash all that, let me sum that idea up this way: please read the guidelines, and go with the flow! As we prepare to return to in-person worship, I think it might be helpful to review a basic theology of worship.
Worship is first and foremost, about God. We are reminded in the very first question of the Westminster Catechism (in both the shorter and longer versions) that the chief end of all people is to glorify God and enjoy God forever. Therefore, when we gather for worship, God is the central focus. Another way to remember this is that in worship, God is the audience. We are there for God.
Worship is about offering, and this is about far more than material gifts. In worship, we offer prayers; musical selections meant to nurture praise and thankfulness, testimony to what God is doing; we offer our hearts as we hear the Word; we offer ourselves when we come to the table. And yes, we offer gifts, as well. All of this is symbolic and important. Our Book of Order reminds us that, “The first Christians, following Jesus, took three primary elements of life -water, bread, and wine – as symbols of God’s self-offering to us and our offering of ourselves to God.” When we gather for worship, we are remembering all that God offered for us so that we could be saved, and in turn we are offering ourselves -talents, gifts, abilities, and ourselves.
For worship to be most meaningful, it requires that we come with the right attitude. I’ve heard many people characterize coming to worship as “getting a fix,” (and I’m sure people who say that mean that they need worship to help them reset in some fashion). People also talk about “getting something out of worship.” I totally get that. But to come away from worship with something meaningful, it goes back to offering. We must come ready to meet God. Our denomination’s Book of Order characterizes worship this way, “Worship is a collective activity of the people of God and an expression of our common life and ministry. It demands the full, conscious, and active participation of the whole body of Christ, with heart, mind, soul, and strength” (W-2.0201).
When we gather on Sunday, I hope to see many of you, though I understand not everyone is ready yet. And I pray we come ready to meet God, to offer ourselves to him, just as he offered himself for us. It may seem strange, different, new, familiar, and hopefully meaningful and Christ-centered, which is most important.
May God continue to bless us as we gather.