Last month I wrote about the way in which the world in which we live and worship has changed, and how, though the gospel message is unchanging, the way in which we tell of it and encourage others to join us in it has changed – asking that we rejoice in the variety that is present in our life and seek to get to know more fully what the whole family of the Church is doing in and around Louth. One of the ways in which we live out our life as Christians is to join others as we come before God in prayer, and to join others in worship.
For a long time our public worship has been seen as one of the ‘shop windows’ of the Church, and with good reason we should aim to make our worship attractive and welcoming. However, being a shop window that provides people with an immediately satisfying experience is not the only (indeed not the most important) reason for us gathering in worship – that would make worship little better than a performance or product for people to experience and consume. This misses the point – for our gathering for worship is primarily an occasion for us coming before God, offering ourselves as we are (warts and all!), hearing the scriptures, opening our hearts in prayer and offering our selves in worship. So even if our worship is to be attractive to others, it must keep at its core our own worship of God.
Worship is, for those participating, a chance to come before God and be open to God’s presence in their lives. Whilst this may not be all transforming on every occasion, this must be the possibility – either that we are experiencing God’s presence with us at the time, recalling a past experience of God through our worship, or preparing for a future experience of God in our lives by the discipline of worship. (Indeed we may do all three of these things at once!). We may find that we worship best in quiet times of contemplative prayer or in the holy chaos of Messy Church, in a small group of ‘two or three gathered together’ or in a larger group worshipping with ‘psalms and songs’; we might find poetry, pictures or music bring us closer to God. In all of this our prayer must be that we might draw closer to God – and that others may want to join us on travelling the same journey in their way.
So let each ‘shop window’ do its job – not of selling someone a single experience, but of helping them see that there is much on offer, and that they too can draw closer to the same God. It may be that they find God in the long-established department store, in the friendly village shop, or perhaps in the local shopping centre or corner shop; maybe in the new or maybe in the old – but let us pray that wherever they go they may see God at work and be encouraged to find that same God themselves, so that they too can share their discovery with those they meet.
Rev’d Nick Brown