I have loved our outdoor worship services this year. Out under the pavilion where we can enjoy the sunshine and the trees; the birdsongs. Plus, really excellent vibrant worship services! I for one would be willing to continue to worship there all the way to Christmas if the weather would only cooperate!
Among some people in the outside world there is an impression that worship is a tedious unpleasant experience -- something one ‘ought’ to do once in a while like forcing down some awful medicine to keep current their reservation for heaven. But those of us who choose to come, on a more or less regular basis, to sing hymns and hear the scriptures read and interpreted and to pray together -- we come because we’re in on the secret that something happens in worship that makes life better for us.
The fifth commandment tells us to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” One day in seven is to be set aside to give thanks to God for all the good gifts of creation; to take the long view of our lives; and to see where we have been and where we are going. God knows how great a temptation it is for us to keep on working and accumulating and acquiring and never feeling as if we have done enough. So God made keeping the Sabbath a commandment.
Six days of the week we work to provide food and clothing and shelter and entertainment for our families and ourselves. But one day each week should be different. The ancient Hebrews knew this. They knew that there is more to life than work. The Hebrews set aside one day of every seven for God to work on their re-creation.
The Sabbath was not simply a day of rest, but a day of worship. A time for all people to stop and take account of life -- to remember the creator. To remember that not everything depends on us -- on our effort and labor. The Sabbath is commanded so that we might have time to worship.
If, as we believe, it is God’s intention to show by his Word how we may build our lives upon a strong and joyful foundation, then the purpose behind the commandment to praise God one day in seven must be somehow related to what will build that kind of life.
New Testament Scholar N. T. Wright has a new book titled The Day the Revolution Began. He, as always, has some very provocative ideas. He defines “sin” as “the failure to worship.” He writes, “Human beings worshiping their creator were the intended key to the proper flourishing of the world.”
He goes on to define “worship” as “a matter of gazing with delight, gratitude and love at the creator God and expressing praise in wise articulate speech. Those who do this are formed by this activity to become the generous humble stewards through whom God's creative and sustaining love is let loose into the world. That was how things were meant to be.” [p.100]
Of course, he is talking about more than just a day of worship. His point is that God intends our whole lives to be infused with worship. But a regular habit of Sunday worship is needed to fuel that kind of lifestyle.
Our minds and bodies have been created with certain inborn patterns -- the recurring need to sleep, to eat and to exercise. We can ignore these patterns and needs, but they still have an effect on us.
We can ignore our need to eat, for example, and if we do, a fairly predictable series of events will happen. After missing a few meals, one becomes tense, irritable and unpleasant to be around, and -- at first -- very hungry. But if one continues to go without food, then, after a day or so, the hunger disappears. People on long fasts and hunger strikes find that after the first day or so, they no longer feel hunger. They become weak and tired and more vulnerable to disease, but they no longer feel hungry. They actually lose the desire to eat.
Going without Sunday worship is something that one can get used to; and after a while, one may no longer miss it at all. Yet while they feel no appetite for worship, their spiritual selves are becoming weaker and more vulnerable as the weeks pass.
The need for worship is built into our design, just as surely as our need for vitamin C, sleep and exercise. To ignore that natural need is to risk mental and spiritual illness.
So let's not let anything keep us from this necessary and joyful experience!
Rev. Nancy Becker