Summary: The importance of worship
In my Christian life so far, I have been fortunate, or depending on your viewpoint, unfortunate enough to be present in Churches where there have been considerable discussions about worship. Some of these have involved changes in hymnbooks – do we keep our old book or move to Mission Praise. Some have involved changes in what happens during morning worship – is it best for the children to be in at the start or the end of the service, someone seriously suggested that they shouldn’t be in at all. At another Church there was a discussion on should we get rid of the choir, at the same church we had an extremely heated discussion over whether we should get rid of the pews? Again, one comment was that we have worshipped in pews for all our lives; we won’t be able to worship without them.
Strangely, in all of these discussions about worship, nobody referred to this morning’s passage from Romans: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. In other words, worship has nothing to do with the words we use, the order we do things in, the time we do it, what we sit on when we do it or anything else. Worship is simply to do with God and us nothing else is needed.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Church in Rome, it was a Church that had never known the teaching of an apostle. All of the other churches that he wrote to, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Philippi and the rest had received a personal visit by at least one person who had met Jesus in the flesh; often that one person was Paul himself. Rome hadn’t, so Paul in the first eleven chapters of the letter gives all of the teaching on theology that they would have received if they had had such a visit. He covers subjects like God’s wrath and love, sin, the law, salvation and faith. From chapter 12, Paul moves on to show how all of this theology should be put into practice. The gifts that God gives, how to show God’s love, obeying the government, and so on. But the first practical matter that he writes about, and from this, we can assume that for Paul it was the most important thing is worship.
Is worship as important as this to us today? In the last few weeks and in the next couple of months we have heard and will hear about a lot of things that should be happening in our Church, things like growing, evangelism, priorities, serving and more. But as we hear these things we need to remember these words from Paul’s letter to the Roman Church. We need to remember that for Paul, the most important thing that Christians, and the Church should be doing is worshipping God.
It was the little boy’s first trip to Church, and his mother had hurriedly put him through the correct “Sunday best” procedure of thorough washing, dressing in smart clothes, and the inventing of a parting in his hair – previously unknown to his startled scalp. Having been warned to ‘behave’, which generally meant ‘shut up and don’t fidget’; they proceeded to the local Church under the incessant clanging of its bell. On entering the Church, the boy was instantly curious, fascinated by this strange new world. The hushed voices, the high arches, the slightly musty smell and the rows of empty wooden pews. Or were they empty? No, here and there a hat, the back of a head, a pair of hunched shoulders, would bob up or down, appear or disappear. His mother led him in whispers to one of those dark tunnel like rows, where she immediately knelt and bowed her head; he copied instinctively. The silence only lasted for a few more seconds, as the question that had been growing more and more urgent in his lively young mind suddenly burst out, ringing loud and clear through the ancient arches: ‘Mummy, who are we all hiding from?’