THE LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
January 31, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
During a discussion on worship recently the statement was made that the Christian church cannot out entertain the secular world. The implication was that we ought not to try to do this, even in an attempt to bring new people into the congregation. Worship is not entertainment. Having said that, those unfamiliar with Christian practice might wonder what worship is if it is not entertainment. What we seem to understand these days is “bread and circuses,” the downfall of the Roman Empire.
There is a verse in the Acts of the Apostles that I have often turned to in developing the practice of Christian worship. In Acts 2:42 and 43 we are told that these early Christian “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”
When these Christians gathered they were concerned with instruction. Preaching then is not for the purpose of entertainment, but for instruction, discipleship, and emersion in the truth about God. In a sermon delivered on the Areopagus of Athens Paul quotes Epimenides of Crete (c. 600 BC) saying, “In him we live and have our being.” Paul was speaking to Greek philosophers. The Christians in Jerusalem were all Jewish. But the need for teaching is crucial for God is everywhere and in everything. He wants us to know him, to love him and to walk in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Fellowship follows the corporate understanding of truth. The Worship experience calls the family together in one mind. Our different temperaments, talents and tasks are joined in the mind of the Savior. We find the deep attachment which comes from a common relationship to God. We are his children. We learn from his Spirit.
The third practice mentioned in Acts is celebration. The specific reference is to the practice of the Lord’s Supper. We sometimes call it the Eucharist, which is the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” We also call it communion, which indicates the family nature of the celebration. It is an ordinance given to the Church by the Messiah by which we remember the price paid for our forgiveness, and offer our thanks as a family of believers.
The fourth practice mentioned by Luke in Acts is prayer. We come together as a body of believers to pray. Yes, we can pray by ourselves in the privacy of our own homes or in the great outdoors. Jesus often did. But, what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” is actually a corporate prayer given to the Church. Its pronouns are all plural. If we learn to think together and feel together, and celebrate our common forgiveness, then we need to pray together for the things important to both to the believers, the neighborhood and the world.
When this happens; that is when we worship, there is often a sense of awe that surrounds us. It is not because God somehow comes to us. He is already everywhere. It is because together we pay attention to that presence. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I among them.” Worshipers have found it to be so.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs