In times like these, when treasures of the world are easily destroyed and betrayed, is it any wonder the hearts of mankind are lost, too?
Europe’s financial structure is collapsing. The jobless market is at a standstill, despite what the politicians claim. The number of homeless children in my county tripled in the last year. How are we supposed to worship in times like these?
The Presbyterian Book of Order states that one of the Great Ends of the Church is the maintenance of divine worship. The word worship comes from the word worth and the suffix which means the state of being. So worship means the embodiment of that which is of worth.
There are many things of great worth. Psychologist William Glasser stated that food, water and shelter are the primary survival needs of mankind. Belonging and love or acceptance by our peers is the second greatest need, followed by power, freedom, and fun. According to Glasser’s Choice Theory, everything we do is determined by our desire to fulfill these five needs. Worth must be defined by circumstances. Food, water and shelter are not considered treasures, unless one is in need of them. We treasure our family and friendships so greatly that we would trade almost anything to keep them safe. We treasure the things which make us powerful to such an extent that we build vaults and develop weaponry to protect them and are devastated by their loss. Wars have been fought, won and lost, for the great treasure called freedom. And fun! How much of our time, money, and effort is spent in the treasured pursuit of fun?
There is a cost for all of these needs -- time. We live in an era when fast food is the nutrient du jour. We divide our time into hours, minutes, seconds, and nanoseconds. We text because it would take too long to converse. We email because we don’t want to wait weeks for the reply. Merchandise and money are exchanged electronically – why waste time going to a store, being waited on, and having to limit our choices to only what they currently have in stock. Multi-tasking is the expected talent of any life, even the spiritual one. My church begins at 11:00 and ends precisely on if not before noon. We don’t sing the fifth verses of any hymn, the anthem is often sung during the offering. From my vantage point in the choir I watch as church members sneak peeks at their watches waiting for the service to begin and squint open one eye during a somewhat deeper (longer) prayer. Do we have the time it takes to set the tone to worship? Should we take the time to set the tone to worship?
Services are defined by the audience the church seeks to attract: traditional, youth-centered, contemporary, coffee-house, etc. A fear persists that if we can’t keep our audience happy, our churches will fail. According to Religion News Service, approximately one percent of churches permanently shut their doors each year. It is important – from a business point of view – to attract new members. New members increase our sense of belonging and power and add to the financial security of the budget. But congregations today sometime get caught up in the customer-service part of church and forget that worship is the heart of the church. The argument divides the church between the need to entertain to keep people coming and the reality that worshippers don’t need to be entertained; they come to worship God.
God does not seem to be a strong proponent of quantity over quality. Jesus states that a good congregation is “where two or three are gathered.” Two or three might have a hard time covering the church’s monthly budget, but Jesus suggested that we not worry so much about money but think on the kingdom of God first. Once the music and the fellowship and the men’s breakfasts and the women’s circles and the missions and the vacation Bible schools are over, do we still hold our treasure? Is the time spent at church worth it? In times like these, is the worship of God at the heart of all you do?
Worship doesn’t have to take place only in a church building. Anywhere you are, God is also. Worship cannot be compartmentalized, to fit in between the responsive reading and the anthem. It begins where all treasure is hidden, in the heart. The church service should be set apart from the world, just as we Christians are set apart from the world. This isn’t a ball game or a waiting room. This is a time to worship. Anytime you can set yourself apart from the world and wonder at the worthiness of God, you are worshipping.
Worship begins with an awareness of the worth of God. Worship continues to expand and embrace the holiness and righteousness of God. Worship fills the needs of the believers of God and infiltrates their very lives so that others, watching them, will yearn to discover this wonderful, worthy God.
In times like these, when people search for treasure which will not tarnish or rust or get stolen, let them find their treasure in the worship of God.
Jesus, let me be generous with the things You give me. Love, hope, joy, understanding, compassion, wisdom, faith: help me share these things. Help me use these things to further your kingdom. In your name I pray. Amen.