I was glad when
they said to me ...
It is Sunday, close to the hour of worship. I wonder what images, feelings, and thoughts you experience when you realize it is almost time to gather with others in corporate worship.
I don't want to hear the right or appropriate answer but your real images, feelings, and thoughts. Do you find any kinship with the Psalmist who said, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'?" Or does the worship hour fill you with dread, a spirit of tolerance, and thoughts of what you'll do when it is over?
In our new vision statement, we speak of "spiritual hunger to worship God," and so many images fill my mind. But when I look at "Harper's Bible Dictionary", I discover that the word worship in Hebrew means "to bow down, prostrate oneself," a posture indicating reverence and homage. The Greek word also conveys the meaning "to bow down" but adds a dimension of service or piety.
Our new vision statement calls us to experience a deep longing to bow down and respond to God's presence by living whole lives. This means we must live lives that are complete, well rounded, and characterized by goodness and faithfulness. We must open ourselves to the possibility that we might be missing this hunger, this sense of emptiness without God.
What difference would it make to you if you didn't have a corporate worship to attend? Would you miss this weekly gathering? Would there be emptiness in your very being? Now, I admit that we could work on making our worship time more appealing, more focused on God's presence with us than on our presence with God. Maybe this is what we need to work on - if we are to help our people experience a spiritual hunger to worship God. Maybe we should engage in a worship audit. "Harper's Bible Dictionary" describes worship this way: At these meetings, there would be teaching, exhortation, singing, praying, prophesying (proclamation), reading letters, and the breaking of bread. Above all, Christian worship was characterized by great joy and thanksgiving.
We still have the elements of teaching, exhortation, singing, praying, prophesying (proclamation), reading letters, and the breaking of bread - but are our worship times characterized by great joy and thanksgiving?
I am aware that as you read this, you are thinking about your own worship. Don't get bogged down in the form of worship, but think more about the attitude of worship. Are there smiling faces? Is there a sense of celebration? Do we show gratitude for God's presence, protection, power, and positive approach to us?
If people would rather be somewhere else besides your church at worship time, I would start thinking about what can be done to improve the quality of worship.
We want people who attend worship in our churches to leave saying, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the United Methodist church in our community.'"
Bishop James Swanson
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