You have probably heard me say before that the time we spend as a community of faith in worship on Sunday mornings is the most important hour of the week in the life of the church. That’s not because of the scripture that is read, or the preaching, or the prayers, or the music that is sung by the choir or the congregation. These are important parts of our worship, but these are not the things that make our time of worship important. Worship is the most important hour of the week in the life of the church because this is the time that we intentionally gather as a community of faith to encounter God. Worship is important because God is here.
The order of worship itself is designed to help us move into and experience the presence of God. To accomplish that effectively we pattern our worship after Biblical encounters with God. One significant Biblical encounter is found in this passage from Isaiah when the prophet has a vision of God in the temple. In this vision, Isaiah finds those gathered to praise God singing, “holy, holy, holy;” he hears God’s word proclaimed asking, “Who will go for us?;” and Isaiah responds to God’s word saying, “Here I am!” Then with the words, “Send me!” Isaiah is sent out to serve among God’s people. Does this look familiar? Perhaps you can see in this divine encounter the fundamental elements of our order of worship.
If you have never done so, you may want to take a look at pages 2-5 in The United Methodist Hymnal. Here you will find an explanation and outline for the basic pattern of worship. You will see that there is much flexibility in this pattern so that it can be adapted to the life of the congregation.
At the heart of our experience of worship is the understanding that God is present—that this is an intentional encounter with the divine. While we can certainly have personal encounters with God, worship is—by nature—the act of a community. As important as our personal encounters are, they can never equal the significance of worship in community. God is too big for any of us as individuals to comprehend the totality of God. When we intentionally encounter God in community we have a better opportunity to catch a glimpse of the fullness of God.
When we have an encounter with God, our lives can never be the same. That is evident in our story of faith. Whether it is Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Isaiah, Esther, Peter, John, Mary, or Paul, their lives were transformed by the presence of God. God desires to transform our lives today so that we can be the people of faith and the community of faith that God wants us to be. This transformation is not a one time occurrence, but an ongoing event that continues each and every time we encounter God.
God changes things. God will help us grow as a community of faith as we learn to love God and love each other completely. Worship changes things. Worship will change our lives when we enter with anticipation and the expectation that we will encounter God. Worship will transform our lives and our community when we intentionally gather in the presence of God.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Rik