Why do we gather for worship?
Psalm 92, Hebrews 10:19-25
- Mark 12:29-30 (you shall love the Lord your God…) “When Jesus identifies this as the greatest commandment, he sets worship at the centre of human life. Worship, as full-hearted love of God, is meant to permeate our lives” (Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast, p54) It is the context/environment in which we are to live our lives as God’s people.
- For all of Christian history, this call to worship has been understood, in part, to be expressed in gathered community. But that takes effort!…
- Illustn: as a church planter… that morning at Newington Comm Ctr… hard work!
- We have podcasts…more resources out there than ever before…
- So, why gather for worship?
- February 23-24, 1929, this building was opened. Gathered worship has been sustained here for 90 years. So significant! But why?
- Heb 10:24 says not to give up meeting together. God says to do it. So do it. But there is much more.
- Ps92… Unique…Whoever put Psalms together notes only this one as designated for the sabbath day. Others added later by subsequent generations of scholars. So, since very early in its life, it’s been used for gathered worship. So what does it tell us about the why of worship?
- Worship (and in this context, gathered praise) is our fitting response to God (Ps 92:1-3)
- “It’s good to praise God.” What’s good about it? There are 2 things in praise we particularly remind ourselves of: God’s ‘love…and faithfulness’ (v2)
- God’s steadfast/loyal love to us – chesed – one of the richest words/concepts in OT scriptures. The loyal affection/mercy of one person towards another, to act in their interest even though they can’t demand or even deserve it. Think of Ruth in standing by her motherinlaw Naomi. Or Boaz’ actions in providing protection and food for Ruth and then marrying her. Or Ruth’s great-grandson David’s cry to God in Ps51 to forgive his sin of adultery with Bathsheba (“in your steadfast love have mercy on me”) ; a cry he felt able to make because he was convinced God’s faithful love for him would survive even the wrenching sin he had committed.
- Think of the ultimate act of loyal love…the love of God in Christ who acted for you and me to secure our future with him through the cross.
- It engenders hope and trust and affection and…Praise. And its good (v1) for that praise to happen in community.
- CS Lewis: “…But the most obvious fact about praise — whether of God or anything — strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise [unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.] The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.…
I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about….
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” (Reflections on the Psalms)
- “It is good to praise the Lord.” (v2) It’s a fitting response to his majesty, grace, mercy, loyal love. We gather to praise.
- Worship transforms our perspective
- brings inner strength as we focus beyond our daily circumstances to God (v5-8 – & continues to v11)
- It is said that ‘vision leaks’ – ie unless we continue to remind ourselves of what we are aiming for, we will find it hard to stay on track towards it. The same can be said of perspective. It’s very easy for our eyes to lock on to the issues and realities that confront us from first thing in the morning onwards each day, and become consumed by these things. And after a week… we are in danger of letting slip from our radar the most profound realities of life. What God has done for us; his glory and greatness; his loving big plan for his world and how we are part of that. We often need help as God’s people to “disengage from the nose-length focus of daily life” (Thompson), and regain a clear view of life in God.
- Asaph the Psalmist realised this in Ps 73:1-3, 16-17a. What is it about ‘entering the sanctuary’? There’s an awakening to the presence of God changes my heart, my focus, my sense of hope.
- We can do that on our own. Early morning spot… listening to podcast or worship in transit in the car, a lunchtime walk, quiet spot in the afternoon, reflection in the evening, or it could be practicing the presence of God in the activity of our day.
- But there are some special ways in which this happens when we gather for worship. God’s word comes to us through others. Our experience of serving God with our response of praise, or thanksgiving, or confession, or submission to his will, is shared with others who are likewise serving God in that moment. Our experience of restoration of faith or encouragement or challenge or a renewing of our mind or our sense of purpose in being about the will of God in our lives, gains further strength from sharing this experience with our faith family, who in that moment God is also speaking to. Worship demands our response as whole beings – a response to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, in just the same way as the brother or sister beside us.
- The result? We are able to re-engage the realities of our world – our daily life, the challenges and triumphs of our personal circumstances that have the potential to lead us either into despair or pride – in the deeper and clearer perspective of God and our relationship with him.
- Illustn: Josh & 2014
- We gather to remember who we are, and whose we are. To recount the stories that shape our faith, that turn us from a bunch individuals into a community. To restate that to be in Christ is to be joined to the body of Christ, the church, and the central visible way we express this reality is by gathering in his Spirit and responding to his word.
- In fact, it’s in worship that we find not only right perspective, but our ultimate purpose, giving glory back to God.
- Beautiful picture in v12-15 – trees planted in the temple surrounds – flourishing in the presence of God – for years and years and years. The writer of this psalm deliberately draws us a picture of vitality in the walk of righteousness and faith, and links it to savouring the presence of God, of flourishing in his house as a testimony to his grace and goodness.
So why gather? Because in doing so…
- We can be awakened again to the wonder of God. Experience his Spirit freshly and powerfully
- We can witness the goodness of God in the lives of others and take courage from it
- We place ourselves in the space where we can open those very things that burden us to God, for his transformation and healing
- We do what we were created for. And we are never more fully human, than in those moments.
- This sense of enjoyment of the presence of God takes an even richer turn this side of the cross.
- Heb 10:19-23 reminds us that – we have access to God ‘by a new and living way’, we can ‘draw near to Him’, and so spend every moment of our lives in his presence. But rather than that leading us to think lightly of gathered worship, what better way can there be for us to remind ourselves again of its potency? That in Christ the curtain has been torn. Each of us, from the least to the greatest, in the world’s eyes (or even in our own), stand on level ground in the presence of God, forgiven and clean in Christ as we have surrendered our lives to him. While we will be aware of this in our own private spaces, and in our family spaces, and with friends in other contexts, gathering with our spiritual family and reminding ourselves of what is ours in Christ – confidence to come before God, forgiveness, freedom, assurance – is perhaps the vehicle with the most potential for helping us to live freely and sacrificially and deeply loving God. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews says “lets not give up meeting together”.
- So, after 90 years…will you? Will you give yourself unreservedly…to that which you were created for?