It’s only worship if…

In one church I attended the piano player for hymns didn’t turn up. Being a small church in a hall where the chairs could be rearranged, the set up was quickly changed from a theatre style with a lectern up front to sitting round four centrally placed tables, much like sitting round a large dining room table together.

A late arrival then swooped in, saw the set up and shouted out, “This isn’t worship,” and demanded the seats be put back into theatre style with the lectern up front so that hymns could be sung in a proper formal set up, because “it was only worship” if there were hymns in that style of seating. So we dutifully arranged the chairs back to the original set up, and the late arrival strode up front and led hymns without music.

It was a delicate moment, as I imagine it must be in many churches, where “It’s only worship if” a certain format is followed, and woe betide anybody who tries to change it, even if the old format is totally impractical.

Well, if anyone knew what worship was, Jesus did, because his life was worship from one end to the other. And never was he locked into any format. There was no ‘right’ set up when he preached. It didn’t matter if there were hymns, or not. It didn’t matter which day he preached, either. His only concern was to get the truth out about his Father, and work with those the Father gave him. Where and how that was done varied widely.

And now it’s our turn, as the Christian Church, to get the truth out about Jesus and work with those who respond. In working with those who respond, therefore, did Jesus give any indication that the only proper way to do that is in a building on a specific day of the week, with a formal set up and hymns? No, he didn’t. He met with his disciples in many different places on many different days. They sat or they walked together. There was no fixed format. Was it worship? Of course it was. Jesus was worshipping his Father by doing what his Father told him to do – in the most effective way at the time.

So here we are now, also worshipping by doing what Jesus told us to do. And judging by Jesus’ example, how and where we do it is based purely on what is most effective in the circumstances we’re in. For us without a piano player it was sitting round tables in a more informal set up. It could have worked just as well.