Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Place of Worship

This is where I live!  Well, not exactly. This is a photograph of the church which stood on the site of the Manse I now live in.  It was a Bible Christian Church (one of the streams of Methodism that reunited into one in 1932) and The Manse was, as far as I can tell, built to the same footprint and possibly on the same foundations.  So I guess you could say I live in a place of worship.  It reminds me of one school child who thought that I lived in the church building :-).

Part of my Sabbatical theme is being in places of worship.  I am looking at places that have congregations on a Sunday of over 500.  I have mentioned my visits in past blogs but I have still to share about the most recent visits.

The first of these was to Christ Church Winchester on 25th May, where we were pleased to share in worship with the good folk there and where Jude Greenfield conducted worship and Revd Dave Fenton was the preacher.  Dave spoke on the theme of "Loving God" based on Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Mark 12:28-34.  Dave spoke about attributes of God that prompt us to love him. He said that God has a unique nature (there is no other), that his work of love started with the initiative of him loving us, that he promises good things (he made a garden for us in the beginning).

Today (8th June - Pentecost) I did not venture so far and shared in worship at St Mary's, Longfleet, Poole.  Here David Betts preached on the theme of Pentecost under the heading "Champagne for the Soul - Receiving More". He challenged us to recognise that receiving and using the gifts God gives depends on us keeping in balance "The Truth of the Word" and "The Power of the Spirit".  We were invited to receive whatever God wanted to give us and to allow any blockages to be taken away.  Towards the end of the service there was a time of ministry where the whole congregation invited the Holy Spirit to come upon us again.

I value the opportunity and privilege during this Sabbatical to share in worship with God's people in different places.  I do believe so strongly that a Christian's prime obligation is to worship God.  As the Westminster Catechism put it "Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."    (Apologies for exclusive language.)  Why do Christians sometimes think it is OK to take time off from worship; that it can come second to other things?  There are no other things that are more important.

The central place of worship and the central place of the life of the Church within our own discipleship should not be dumbed down into simply meaning going to church (important as that is) - attending church services if you like.  Worship is about so much more than going to a building.  As I mentioned earlier part of my Sabbatical theme is being in places of worship.  These are physical places that I briefly visit and then leave again.  In the end there is a greater challenge and that links with my other comment about where I live, and where I live is in a place of worship (or at least it was).  But actually that is the spiritual/theological point isn't it?  Yes church services are important and being connected to the life of the church is important, but does not God call us to live constantly in the place of worship, where our whole life becomes a sacrifice of worship to him, an expression of worship?  Romans 12:1-2 tells us that "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will."   

Are you in the Place of Worship?