Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.
On the face of it worship is a strange thing to do in our culture. In other countries where spirituality and religion play a much greater role in people’s lives, days for worship are abuzz with activity and life. In our context the world carries on around us, indifferent (apparently) to God and his claims on our lives. The thought of giving an hour or so on a Sunday morning to going to church is regarded as eccentric or bizarre by many people.
And yet worship is the heart of our response to God. In the Lords prayer we have seen how the first line responds to the nature of God and places us in an intimate relationship with him. The second line: hallowed be your name, puts in the language of prayer the right response to this revelation. As the liturgist John Leach once said, “God loves us, but he’d really like it if we loved him back.” But worship is much more than simply gathering together to sing songs to God and to meet Him in word and sacrament. St. Paul urged us in Romans 12, “in view of God’s mercy to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” A sign on the inside of a Church door I saw once puts it well, “the gathering is finished, the worship begins.”
To worship God is not a form of spiritual self-indulgence. True encounters with God in worship are always transformative. That doesn’t mean they are accompanied by vivid spiritual experiences necessarily, just as you probably don’t remember what you had for breakfast. But that nourishment did something to you, fuelling you for the day to come. When we are invited to hallow the Lord’s name we are meditating on his character, and giving him due respect and importance in our lives. Our gatherings for worship are a form of re-calibration while the world shouts at us from Monday to Saturday that life revolves around us, fostering a spirit of entitlement. It is this culturally and economically fostered selfishness that I think lies at the root of so much relational breakdown and the toxic, impolite interactions that seem so common.
Worship is alive and well in our society; its just not called that. We all enjoy hobbies and activities of various kinds which are good and healthy, but they can easily become obsessive and all-consuming to the detriment of relationships with our nearest and dearest. I enjoy riding my motorbike around Herefordshire and South Shropshire, but Deborah would have something to say if I did it much more than I do at the moment – fun though that might be.
The paradox at the heart of worship is that focussing on God as the centre of our existence doesn’t diminish our capacity to love and give of ourselves to others, it enhances it. Indeed, the Old Testament prophets are frequently scathing of worship that doesn’t have that effect. Many are surprised that Christians have such an influence in charitable work, far in excess of our numbers in the population as a whole. Were we to withdraw into a holy huddle work amongst young people, food banks, and many other bulwarks of the social fabric would be hugely diminished. Worship is empirically community transforming. Psychological research even shows its good for your health!
So, when we are invited to hallow the Lord’s name it starts to define the nature of our relationship with the Father, but it also transforms us. Worship is part of the discipline that helps to form us into Christ’s likeness. Its vital for our spiritual health and we can do it anytime, anywhere. In fact, what we do on a Sunday is ideally a gathering together of our disciplines for the rest of the week.
Hebrews 10, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Our father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.