Something wonderful happens when the people of God gather in worship. Whether it’s a small congregation, a crowded cathedral, or the main Eucharist at General Convention; whether the occasion is joyful, mournful, or penitential, coming together as followers of Jesus reminds us that we are indeed the body of Christ in the world (not just in the Church) and that Christianity is very much a communal faith. We are not on this journey by ourselves; in fact, we need one another. The word worship originated in the Old English expression “worth ship”. Our worship seeks to give to God what is worthy of God, as best we can. In our tradition we refer to worship services as liturgy, from Greek words meaning “the public work of the people” (note that word, public). Worship, liturgy, is a two-way street, in which there is always communion of some kind between God and God’s people. And though certain persons – clergy, other ministers, musicians – have specific roles, everyone present is meant to be an active participant. There are no bystanders in the church’s worship of God! When someone is missing, the body is incomplete.
One of my favorite hymns is “We the Lord’s people” (#51 in The Hymnal 1982). The text is by John E. Bowers and the second stanza, in particular, describes what our worship gatherings are meant to be, and how they help draw us closer to God: “school for the faithful, refuge for the sinner, rest for the pilgrim, haven for the weary”. Perhaps, from time to time, church has been each of those things for you. It certainly has for me! Out of this text arise two questions: What do we bring to worship? What do we take away from it?