The ancient Greco-Roman city of Bet She’an was a huge city in Jesus’ day. It was one of the pagan cities of the Decapolis that was later destroyed in an earthquake. Since the 70’s it’s been discovered and excavated. It’s interesting to us because it MIGHT have been the site of the first missionary (the man possessed by a legion of demons and then freed by Jesus) to the gentiles.
The Western Wall is famous all over the world. We have all seen the pictures of people praying and inserting written prayers into the wall. However, there is story in the gospels about Jesus’ temptation that also took place at the “highest point of the temple”. Let’s visit the Western Wall.
I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle—and reward!
-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year
Worship is a meeting between God and his people. Like all other meetings between two people, a certain amount of form is necessary. . . . God has already established the structural ingredients needed in a meeting with him, and we cannot improve on these forms. We simply need to understand what they are and practice them in faith, believing that we really are meeting God in…Preparation [Gathering], Word, Table [Communion], and Dismissal [Sending].
Since God is speaking and acting in worship, response to God who speaks and acts is of great importance.
In my response, I am once again saying yes to God. As with the initial response when I first heard the word of God’s love and grace, I again respond to him in faith and love. . . . I respond to God in worship because he makes a difference in my life. . . . My response to God . . . determines my priorities in life. It puts me at peace with God, my neighbor, and my own life.
Worship is not for the purpose of remembering the Reformation, hailing the founding of America, saluting mothers, boy scouts, girl scouts, or grandparents. Worship does not celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day.
Worship remembers the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. . . . All that goes into an actual service of worship must pertain to the event of God revealing himself to us, becoming incarnate in our history, and redeeming us from the power of the evil one, setting us free to enjoy him forever.
Scriptures read and preached forms my entire life in the world—personal, family, vocation, ethical. In this way worship sets the world in order, educates me about my place in it, and inspires me to understand God’s ways of dealing with me and with his people.
[In Holy Communion] There is a symbolic communication involved in our very taking of bread and wine, our eating and drinking. . . . Bread and wine are to be consumed. They are to be taken into the hand, put into the mouth, and digested in our stomach. This is the human side of the Table, the response that the signs of bread and wine call for. When we receive that bread into our mouth, bite and chew it, we are claiming God’s work. We are saying,
“You paid the price; you did the work; you achieved my salvation; I accept it.”
Who comes to church?
Does that sound like a stupid question?
I mean when you stand outside of our church on the weekend and watch the cars enter the parking lot, it’s obvious, right? People are coming to church! They might be different in age, background, race or status, but they are all people!
But is that it?
The less obvious answer is that God comes to church too…in us.
Paul asks us in 1 Corinthians 3:16,
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?”
So when we come together as a church, God comes with us. God is everywhere, I know. But God’s spirit lives inside us as scattered temples that gather together as a larger temple to worship as a community. Paul expands this thought in Ephesians…
…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. -1 Corinthians 3:16
So we are scattered temples of God through out the world. But that’s not the whole picture. While it might seem strange to us as American Christians, this isn’t written to you as an individual! This is written to all of us as the church community! We are all being built up into a big temple together with Jesus as the cornerstone.
Another crazy thought is that the goal of us coming together isn’t just to meet with God in worship. Think about it. God’s spirit lives inside of you. Because of the work of Jesus, you can meet with the spirit of God anytime and anyplace. So why would we come together? We come together to meet with other people who are also filled with God’s spirit. Gathered worship is the meeting of God’s people, filled with God’s spirit.
And this brings us back to “worship scattered”. We gather together to be built up into a holy temple of the Lord which is then scattered throughout the world during the week where we continue to worship God with our lives. As author Mike Cosper writes,
“Gathered worship then feeds scattered worship, building up and equipping worshipers to live in the power and wonder of the gospel…Likewise, scattered worship feeds gathered, as each worshiper brings his or her growth, suffering and maturing faith to the gathering.”**
Colossians 3:16-17 has this same idea…it starts with gathered worship…
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And moves to scattered worship…
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This is the rhythm of worship that God has designed for us. All of life is worship. We come together to encourage, learn and grow and then be sent out again to worship in the world. And we do it all, “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. That is worship…scattered and gathered.
* This is a continuation of the blog post, “Worship Scattered”.
** Thanks to Mike Cosper for the content on “worship gathered” and “worship scattered” from Chapter 5 of his book, Rhythms of Grace. It’s an excellent read. I highly recommend it!