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Corporate Worship

by on June 6, 2016

Let’s talk a little about corporate worship.

I’ve been teaching an online class for Grace Bible College called Fundamentals of Theology, that covers a lot of introductory theological concepts (most of which our Bible Instruction Course students already have had the chance to learn!). In the first week of the class, we discuss the ways that God reveals Himself to us. There are two major categories of revelation – special and general. Special revelation is the way in which God reveals Himself and is unique to certain people or times: God appearing to Moses in the burning bush, Jesus’ earthly ministry, and Scripture are examples of this. General revelation is the way God makes Himself known to all people – for example, through creation (Psalm 19 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…”) or through the conscience (Romans 2:14-15 – “…They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness…”).

One of the first assignments students are asked to complete is to give examples from their own experiences of how they have come to know God through both kinds of revelation. Inevitably, when they come to the general revelation example, I will read a paragraph talking about a sunset, or looking up at a clear night sky, holding a newborn baby, or some other example of being awestruck with the grandeur and intricacy of God’s creation.

Now, I certainly agree that these are great places to wonder at the beauty and creativity of our Creator, who has placed His fingerprints on all that we see, and yet still is intimately concerned with the details of our lives. But if we only have eyes to see Him in these situations, our understanding of God, and therefore our worship, will be severely deficient.

In all the papers I’ve graded, I have yet to come across a paragraph explaining how God can be seen on a cold, gray, drizzly, Wednesday afternoon. And yet, if we believe that God is everywhere – that “all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17) – then God is just as present and observable in the dreary days as He is in the sunrises.

Which brings me back to corporate worship. There are some days when we gather to worship that feels to me a lot like an encounter with a sunrise. Maybe it’s my attitude coming in to Sunday, or the song selection, or a passage of Scripture, or the subject of a sermon that God is using to particularly challenge or encourage me, and I walk away more aware of God’s presence and goodness in my life. But then there are other days that just don’t click. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or am still focused on the struggle to get everyone out the door or plans for after church, or the songs/Scripture/sermon weren’t particularly meaningful… it feels more like I’m sitting in rush hour traffic and I’d just like to be home, but I’m still stuck for another 45 minutes (we all have Sundays like that – even pastors).

But God’s presence and goodness is no less real on these mornings than on any other morning. And I’m gathered with a community who worships with me, and maybe even for me when I can’t seem to do it myself. When we gather, we are not a bunch of isolated individuals worshipping or struggling to worship, we are a single Body worshipping together. Some do more, some less, but we do it together. And the regular practice of coming together to worship, even when we don’t feel like it, is a reminder that God is with us in both the glorious and gloomy days. He walks with us, and loves us in the midst of our celebrations and when we are feeling unloveable. He’s not only with us in the sunrises and mountaintops, the newborns and the victories, but in the deserts, in the mist, in the changing of diapers and the loss and failures. And gathering to worship week after week after week can remind us that God desires to know us and be known by us day after day after day, so that we are better equipped to see him and worship Him whatever the circumstances.

What is a place or an activity where you find it difficult to see God’s presence? How might you worship Him there this week?

From → Worship

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