Trafod y Ffydd - Addoli

Worship – by Delyth Wyn Davies
A while ago considerable attention was given to the release of a Welsh CD with sound tracks of hymn tunes for chapel and churches without organists, and it was the talking point of the Taro’r Post debate programme on Radio Cymru. It seemed as if the were looking for someone to oppose the idea of releasing backing tracks for hymns, as if it was a terrible thing to do, but it didn’t work out that way. It made me ask myself why would any Christian want to oppose a way which would help people to worship God. In fact, the reverse happened in response to the topic on the radio and many people phoned in to share how many organists they did have in their chapel or church, with the number of organists increasing with each call! One went on to say that the congregation sang every time in four part harmony. It sounds wonderful to me, especially when I think that a large percentage in my own church don’t sing because they think they can’t sing. But is it really that important? Is that all there is to worship? As I pondered over these questions it made me ask myself what is worship.
The definition given to worship according to the new Welsh language study Bible Y Beibl Canllaw is: Bowing before God , recognizing his divine rights , expressing the praise due to him because of whom he is and what he has done, committing to serve him (trans.)
We know that worship in the Bible can vary. Before the time of Solomon’s temple the emphasis was on sacrificial worship – giving a sacrifice – an animal or grains – something which was valuable to the giver and costly to give. And believe me, this was a real sacrifice. They gave the most valuable asset – the first-born or first-fruits, demonstrating their priority, that they were putting God first. These sacrifices represented their thanksgiving to God but they were also sometimes offerings of atonement for sin.
The themes of thanksgiving and pleading for forgiveness continue further in the Old Testament with a greater emphasis on singing praises, declaring the greatness of God’s deeds and pleading for forgiveness and mercy, particularly in the Book of Psalms, a book people often turn to for help to worship. The first verses of Psalm 95 is an excellent example of Old Testament Jewish worship:
Sing joyful songs to the LORD!
Praise the mighty rock where we are safe.
Come to worship him with thankful hearts
and songs of praise.
The LORD is the greatest God,
king over all other gods.
He holds the deepest part of the earth in his hands,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The ocean is the Lord’s because he made it,
and with his own hands he formed the dry land.
Bow down and worship the LORD our Creator!
The LORD is our God, and we are his people,
the sheep he takes care of in his own pasture.
The most  obvious evidence of God’s people worshipping in the New Testament is the description which is given of the early Church’s worship in Acts 2:42. Here we read the words they spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together. It is interesting to note also that the early Church used variety in worship. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians 3:16 we are encouraged to worship in various ways –  With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
One aspect which is completely evident throughout the Bible is that worship touches every part of our lives. Life is worship, consecrating our whole lives to God as ‘service’. Worship isn’t something which is limited to one hour on a Sunday. The ‘service ‘ of praise and the ‘service’ that we give to God and to others are one and the same. In Luke 4:8 we read the words Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” This is reflected by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews when exhorting the people in the churches to worship – Our sacrifice is to keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus. But don’t forget to help others and to share your possessions with them. This too is like offering a sacrifice that pleases God. (Hebrews 13:15-16, CEV)  It is emphasised further by Paul when he describes true worship in Romans 12:1: So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. (GNB)
Let me offer four questions for consideration and discussion:
1  Who is it that we worship?
This probably sounds like a stupid question. Isn’t the answer obvious? Of course, God is the one whom we worship through Jesus Christ. But let’s turn the question upside down and ask who are we trying to please in our worship – is it God or is it ourselves? Perhaps this may help us to think whether our worship reflects the kind of worship which is seen in the Bible and to ask ourselves who are we putting first, and what pleases God. Although the emphasis is given on sacrifices in the Old Testament, it is out attitude towards worship which really matters. This is evident in Psalm 51:17:
My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God;
you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. (GNB)
Our attitude is important throughout worship services, in the singing, the reading, the praying both public and private, the listening – even in the offering! One of the most exciting experiences for me was to spend a month in DR Congo a few years ago and attending worship services, not only on Sundays, but on other occasions which were an expression of celebration and thanksgiving in a country where the population were oppressed and extremely poor. In each service the collection, or to use the correct name, the offering were an integral and valuable part of the worship and in keeping with tradition everyone came forward to the sound of lively music to present their offering in the basket at the front. I recall one service to celebrate the launch of a boat to carry people and goods to remote and needy areas with over two thousand people going forward in turn, dancing with joy because they were delighted to contribute to the Lord’s work. That part of the service lasted over one hour and the service itself over four hours!
2  Who can worship?
Another stupid question? Of course everyone can worship. But perhaps we should consider the real meaning of this, in practical terms as well as in principle. Do we make it easy or hard for some? Let’s give some thought to the style of worship. Does our worship reflect the variety we see in the New Testament? Is there any correlation between our worship styles and the decline in the churches? And do we shut some people out, even without thinking? There is so much that can be done to include children, young people, unchurched people, those who have vision or hearing difficulties, the bereaved, those who are struggling. And what about that person who has been thinking about coming to church for months and when he or she eventually plucks ups the courage the church is closed because there was no preacher? As we consider the words of Psalm 95 which were mentioned earlier: Come to worship him with thankful heart and songs of praise, let’s remember that what we have here is an invitation. Perhaps we should ask ourselves when was the last time we invited someone or encourage someone to worship. At the Methodist Conference earlier this year the President, Rev Steve Wild, challenged churches to bring one person to faith. In Synod Cymru this year we will be encouraging churches to take up this challenge and to earmark Easter Sunday as a special opportunity to invite people to come to a worship service.3  Who is responsible for the worship?
Over the years I have become more aware of the importance of everyone participating in worship. This principle is encouraged prominently by the Methodist Church through its Youth Participation Strategy which is also applicable to people of all ages.  Here the emphasis is given on everyone contributing to the life of the church and that in fact everyone has a contribution to make to enhance the life of the church. It’s interesting to note Paul’s words in 1 Cor 14:26 which suggest that everyone has a contribution to make. What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (NIV) In the participation strategy we are encouraged to consult with young people about ways in which they would like to see developing in the church. We could take this further in our Developing Our Calling programme this year through consulting with people of all ages about the kind of worship they would like to see in our churches and to ask what would bring new people in to worship. More encouragement and opportunity could be given to people of all ages to lead from the front and for the congregation to take a more active part through creative ways of worship within services. We could also offer entirely new opportunities for worship through holding a café church and Messy Church.
4  Who inspires the worship?
Without the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit our worship can become purposeless and empty. He is the one who inspires and motivates us to worship, and he also enables us to worship, whether we feel like worshipping or not. It is this spiritual dimension which makes worship difficult to describe to others. Think about the words of Jesus to the woman at the well: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’” And this leads me to other one last small question to consider or to discuss – what is the meaning of ‘worship in the Spirit and in truth’?