Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5
Worship is an integral part of what we do as a church body and part of the reason why the church exists. It is, at least partly, through the practice of worship that we are built up and equipped until we all reach unity in the faith and grow into Christ-like maturity, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of God (Eph. 4:12-13). Worship is not just singing and making music; it is the teaching that comes to us; it is sitting under the read and preached word and the fullness it brings to us. Worship is a striving after holiness. It is a desire to be humbled before a holy God. It blesses God, and it should bless us as well.
The great English bishop William Temple said this many centuries ago: “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose--all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.” Someone else, to whom I should give credit but cannot remember the name, said this: “True worship opens all our windows to the Spirit of God.” Both quotes are not only beautiful, but true.
Our corporate worship has been impacted significantly by the current COVID-19 crisis. It is what I miss most as it relates to how our ministry is currently functioning. We cannot see each other (at least not in larger groups), we cannot touch each other, and we cannot sing in unison and listen to the preached word corporately. We have not shared in communion as a larger body now since February. Something vital is missing, and my hope and prayer is that, when we do gather together again, we will not quickly forget what a tremendous blessing it is to do so!
Are you participating in corporate worship? Are you gathering together as a family or in small groups to engage with God and one another? Sadly, some of you cannot do that currently due to the restrictions on large group gatherings. You may be in a high risk category, or you may be single and unable to gather with others in your family because they are in a high risk category. Maybe you find yourself in a nursing home or homebound and feeling even more isolated these days. There is a profound sadness to this. Trust in Christ, he too knows what it feels to be alone and isolated during difficult times. However, for those who are not in these dire situations, I implore you not to forsake gathering together as much as it is possible for worship, even if it is only to gather around a TV and engage virtually. God is among us. We may miss each other, but we are not missing God.
Even during these strange days, I highly recommend making your Saturday evening a time of preparation for Sunday morning. Get yourself, and your children if you have them, to bed at a reasonable hour. Come to worship rested, without having a violent or sexually suggestive movie from the night before running through your head. By all means live life on Saturday evenings, but remember that Sunday morning you will be entering into worship with the corporate body of Christ (virtually now — physically soon). Prepare yourself for that. Worship takes place in many different ways and times in our lives, but it takes place uniquely with the gathered body for most of us only once a week. It is surely worth both our time and our effort to come with a mindset ready to worship, for the glory of God.
Enter into his courts with thanksgiving in your hearts. Enter into his courts with praise. God meets with us when we gather together in small or large groups corporately to worship his great name. When we gather together, let us do so in joy!
Grace and peace,