WEDNESDAY IN THE WORD May 24, 2023
Why Worship at the Church?
Matthew 18: 20 NRSV
“For where one or two are gathered, I am there among them”
Many religious practices have migrated online. Facebook, YouTube, Zoom. They may partner with a variety of denominations to develop digital spaces for online worshipers. So, how are we being formed by these technologies? What do they make possible, and what do they make impossible? While many have debated the blessings and woes of digital worship, few have discussed the role of worshipful fellowship. Fellowship in person cuts against the grain of the disembodied online chatter, and the silence. A shared, worship fellowship cannot effectively facilitate in digital spaces. And a shared, instructive silence is one thing I’m convinced that Zoom cannot facilitate, not even with the mute button.
I’d wager that the moment in a church service when we are most aware of the people around us is not during hymns or collective prayer. It’s when the pastor preaches God’s anointed message for the hearers. It is when she urges us to confess our sins in silence before the blessing of the elements. This is a deeper silence, powerfully personal with God. This silent moment in the prayer of confession continues after the blessing of the elements into a shared holy fellowship as the pastor holds the bread and the cup up affirming the blessings of God for the people of God. We partake in silence.
Yet silence, in the Christian tradition, is a communal activity as much as an individual one, it is not just a private interlude. Although, on our long or short walks, there is always one more podcast we can siphon through our AirPods. But silence, on the other hand, is gratuitous because it assumes that everything, we need is already available to us without additional words or sounds. The cultivation lives in our prayer and stillness.” This interlude invites feelings like the lifeblood of faithful fellowship practice.
It’s when we are during prayer with each other that it offers us moments of shared reverence on the promises of God. It’s part of our Worship experience, a giving and receiving, a petition and a blessing, a declaration and a benediction. Worship is an attitude. It is a frame of mind, a condition of heart. The heart of worship is our heart, delighting in Jesus and expressing praise to him for Truth, “all about” Jesus, not us. We are to be especially grateful when we share fellowship in prayer.
This expressive opportunity reaches beyond what technology can offer. It’s a time for renewal of our faith in community, with hope to hold each other again. But these are habits that only proximity will make possible—habits often unattainable by the disciplines of our digital age. These are habits that bodies can only learn in spaces where they can feel and cherish one another again. These are the kinds of habits that a worshipful fellowship teaches. It’s about praising God together and giving to him, and receiving. God has already given us life, his Son on the cross, grace and the promise of eternal life. When we find ourselves falling into worship for our own gain, we need to come back to the heart of worship. It’s about God.
We come to church to remember God, to worship the God of creation, and to be thankful for the sacrifice of Christ that provides our salvation. We come with a sense of enduring qualities of life, hope for a doubtful future, and a sense of well-being and health amid trials and illness and danger. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, sisters and brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” We are ambassadors of Christ participating in the church’s public and visible worship to seek the Spirit of God’s presence anew, offering a transformative nature with an extended fellowship beyond the walls of the church into a world that seeks hope. Amen.