Worship 6 The Whole People of God

Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory

In these talks we have seen that the Christian people is gathered and that it hears the Word of God. It asks for judgment and it receives it, and it receives mercy and it asks for it. It sings and it prays. This particular community is, for our sake, part of the communion of God. It is given this identity and the task that come with it, by God. It is that part of the communion of God that is visible to the world, and which is therefore witness to God for the world. This is a huge claim. It does not make us comfortable to make it, but we cannot not make it. If this community does not make it, this claim does not go away but hangs around with destructive consequences for our society.

1. Unbroken procession
Let us take another look at the service as a whole. The people arrived and were greeted by the gospel. They were brought up the aisle of the Church to the altar where they received Christ from God. They were led by Christ down the aisle and out into the world to travel through the world.

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Worship 1 Gathering

The Lord be with you
Every Sunday morning Christians gather together in worship. What are they doing in these worship services? What is this meeting and praying and singing all about? I am going to look at what is going on in Church in six talks. I am calling them ‘Gathering’, ‘Hearing’, ‘Singing’, ‘Praying’, and then ‘Eucharist’ and ‘The People of God’. These titles loosely correspond to the stages in any service, and allow us to talk about the Church and the Christian life.

1. The Church gathers
I think the best way to talk about the Church is by talking about one particular church, so I have chosen one – mine. My church is St Mary’s, Stoke Newington, here in London.

We leave our homes and offices to gather as this church. Every week we are roused out of our everyday existence, dragged away from our computer or our sofa, to join these many other people. On Sunday morning we leave the house, and cross the borough of Hackney, to join all the others at St Mary’s. And we once we get up the steps and into the church we go down the aisle and take our places next to each other. We are called together, so we come together.

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Worship 2 Hearing

This second talk on Christian worship is about what Christians hear when they worship. Last time we said that the Church is this people gathered together, and that they are the people gathered by God. We ourselves confess that we are this people gathered by God, and we confess that we are surprised to find ourselves here and saying this. Now we have to say that we have been summoned together in order to hear the Word of God.

1. Scripture as address
When we are together in Church the bible is read out, loud and clear so we all hear it. God has promised to speak to us through Holy Scripture, so the Scriptures are read. As often as we meet, the bible is opened, and read out loud and so the gospel is heard by those who have gathered to receive it, and what we hear we receive as the speech of God to us.

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Worship 3 Singing

In my first talk I said that that the Christian community is gathered. The Lord God brings us here before all these other people and holds us together, making us one. This community is an entity of love, and our identity is hidden somewhere in it. In the second talk I said that this community is brought into being as it reads Scripture and hears the Word of God. This community may hear God as God. In this, the third of these talks, I am going to talk about Christian worship and in particular why Christians sing.

1. Singing
Christians sing. We sing because we can. We have been freed to do so. We may address God because he has addressed us and so opened the lines of communication. Like calves let out of their stalls after a long winter’s confinement we kick up and frolic about, enjoying our new freedom. The whole body feels it.

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Worship 4 Praying

We have been looking at the Christian service of worship. So far we have said that Christians gather, that they hear the readings from Scripture and they sing.

The next thing is that they also pray and intercede. The Church comes together in order to pray. This gathering of people has been spoken to and the result is that it may now speak, and purposefully. God is expecting us to say something. We may say what we like and ask for what we want. The Church gives thanks, it acknowledges its neediness and it discovers how to intercede on behalf of others. Christian worship makes us an articulate people, who pray and speak up for one another.

1. Jesus prays
Jesus prays.
He ‘withdrew to deserted places to pray’ (Luke 5). His disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’ (Luke 11.1-2)

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Worship 5 Eucharist

Christians are gathered together, they hear God’s Word, they pray, and they worship God. These four elements are part of every Christian service.

Traditionally, each service has two parts to it – the ministry of the Word and of the Sacrament. Each service has the Word, since Scripture is always read, but we tend to refer to some services, ‘worship services’ or ‘healing services’. But not every service is a eucharist. But in another sense, every service in which Christians gather and worship God, is part of the one eucharist of God for man, so every Christian service is eucharistic from beginning to end, even when we don’t get as far as the bread and cup.

1. Thanksgiving
He took bread and gave you thanks
Eucharist means thanksgiving. God is with man, and from him we receive our life, and when we are able to acknowledge this we give thanks.

The eucharist is the whole Christian worship service with nothing left out. Every part of this service is a giving thanks. In Christ we are able to see that God is our God. But every act of worship is Christ’s act for us: in each service Christ ministers to us, so we express our surprise and our delight at finding ourselves served by him. And the eucharist is fellowship with the Lord, and so it is a holy communion. It is the fellowship in particular for those who found no room in any other fellowship.

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