Today we gather to worship God – just as people have been gathering in this place for ninety years! Hallelujah!
And throughout the week – as I have been thinking about why we gather for worship and why we have been doing it here in this place for ninety years – the little finger game we play with children has been coming into my mind, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open and doors…here are the people!”
Pictured here is the cover of the opening church programme with an artist’s impression of the new Canberra Baptist Church. You will note that the intended steeple was never built, but, far more importantly, what has been built in this place is the strong conviction that ‘worship’ and ‘church’ are not just about what happens ‘up the front’; what the preachers preach, or the worship leaders say or do, but about the people!
In her chapter on worship in Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson refers to Soren Kierkegaard’s analogy of ‘the theatre of worship’. But it is not the worship leaders, he says, who are the actors in this theatre, entertaining the congregation, but it is the entire congregation who gather to ‘perform’ – to offer our will, our strength, our gifts – to God. God is our audience!
And this church has also understood – if we go back to the finger game – the importance of turning the church inside out; of releasing its people to worship God through lives of service and witness and courage and love in our local community and our world.
But, as Thompson says, worship is not just where we offer ourselves to God, but also where God offer Godself to us. In worship, “God fills us with the knowledge that we are loved, restores our courage through forgiveness, provides the Word for hungry hearts and fills us with the bread and wine of new life in Christ, giving new purpose to our lives.”
And so, for ninety years and still today, we celebrate that here in this place and beyond, God been both the actor and our audience, and we have been both actors and audience to God’s amazing acts of love! Amen and amen!