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January 19, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 

Attendance at church business meetings was one of the things I retired from back in September of 1994.  I can’t believe it has been almost twenty years.  At the insistence of my grown up children I attended our congregation’s quarterly business meeting last evening.  One of the subjects of discussion was worship and they thought I might be helpful.  Besides that they were having a pot luck dinner prior to the meeting.

I’m not going to talk about the meeting, but worship is a much misunderstood area of human practice.  Briefly defined worship is an encounter with God in which we communicate with the Almighty and offer honor and praise.  God is always the primary audience in worship, although he shares with the worshiper whatever in his wisdom what he knows is needed.

A few illustrations might clarify what true worship should look like.

Moses is called to a rendezvous with God by a divine messenger speaking from a burning bush.  When God addresses Moses he asks him to remove his sandals because the ground is holy.  It is holy ground because it is a place of meeting, a place where heaven and earth come together and God communes with Moses.  Moses hid his face in deference to the presence of his Creator.

Joshua met God at Jericho.  When he recognized the one who appeared before him he, “Fell to the earth and worshiped.”  He removed his sandals for the place was holy.  That is to say it was separated by the Almighty as a place of meeting.

Samuel was only a boy when God called to him in the night.  Young Samuel did not recognize the Lord’s call.  At the instruction of Eli, the third time the call came Samuel answered, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears. “  The response to the presence of God was obedient attention.

Every instance of worship is not quite so somber.  Davis, in escorting the Ark of the Covenant to its resting place in the Tabernacle danced before the Lord.  His wife Michal was not amused.  David had shed his royal garments and was dressed in the simple linen ephod of the priesthood.  The Ark was transported from Kiriath-jeairim to Jerusalem and what was to become, under Solomon, the Temple Mount.  The distance was a bit less than ten miles and they “brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.”

We could go on but enough has been said to make one point very clear.  Worship is a time of communion with God.  It is not that God is absent at other times and comes to meet us only in worship.  But worship is “holy time.”  It is time separated out from ordinary time for the purpose of praise, communion and communication.  It is never a time of entertainment.  We are never the audience in worship unless we mean by that that we are listening to God.  In worship we pray to God.  We sing to God.  We listen to God.  We enjoy the presence of God.

I have always loved the story of Elisha’s servant in II Kings 6.  He fears the Syrian army and Elisha prays his eyes may be opened to see the presence of the army of the Lord.  If we could only see Jesus sitting in the pew next to us, we would sing better, pray with more focus and listen with rapt attention.  He told us he would be there: “Where two or three are gathered.”

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at