O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
We worship for many different reasons but I believe we worship, primarily, because we need to. St Augustine famously prayed “…our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in you*.” Humanity is created with a need to be in relationship with God and, even in our current secular age, there is still a yearning for spirituality, meaning, and connection with God.
Some years ago a friend of mine told me he’d become a Buddhist. It was, he said, very different from being a Christian. He’d go, each week, to his Buddhist Temple (a former Methodist Chapel) and meditate. He took his turn on the tea and coffee rota, there was a collection to defray expenses as well as welcome and gardening rotas. Someone even produced a newsletter… Clearly the difference he perceived wasn’t about organisation but about spiritual experience. He went to the temple expecting to have an experience of spirituality mediated through meditation. He is warm about the Church but never expected to encounter spirituality there.
Our Psalm today enjoins us to make a joyful noise in worship and there is the expectation that in worship we experience the presence of God. It’s hard sometimes to experience the Lord when we’re distracted – by the pews, the music, the preacher, and other people! Yet our worship is a communal, not exclusively private, experience and in the midst of the distractions, in the midst of other people, we allow ourselves to experience God, His love for, and challenge to, us which combine to strengthen our discipleship.
When we are distracted with others at church we should pray for them. When we loathe a hymn, we should ask God what we can learn from it. When we think the preacher is on a different planet we should ask the Lord to speak to us through her. We experience God in the busyness and messiness of the world – that’s what Incarnation is all about after all.
*St Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1
Remind us, O God, that worship is all about You
not about us and our tastes. Remind us too, O God, of our need to worship, that we might be strengthened for your Kingdom. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four churches in and around Glasgow.