Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Worship is the principal activity of the Church. Whatever else we do, we worship. We may worship in grand buildings rivalling parish churches in size and beauty or in chapels modelled with Puritan simplicity. We may worship with hundreds of others, or with a few faithful saints. We may worship online with our post-pandemic technical confidence or at home alone. We may use a variety of resources, or simply sit in silence. Yet worship is at the core of what we do as Church – everything else we do springs up from it. Since the earliest days when the believers gathered in the Temple and shared bread and wine in their homes, to the monasteries singing the Psalms in services which punctuated the day and night, to the Reformers’ rediscovery of music and plain exposition of the Scriptures, to the variety of ways in which we worship now, the heart of the Church’s work has been worship.
No wonder then that the writer of the Epistle to the Colossians both encourages and warns this fledgling congregation. They’d adapted elements of pagan worship – no doubt to make pagan converts feel at home, to be better inculturated into their community, and to find a way of accommodating the Roman imperial cult. The writer reminds them that this is not what we are to do as followers of Christ and shows worship as being the primary means of both unity and order. At worship we gather with love, harmony and in peace (or at least we should!). At worship we teach and should be prepared to be admonished in wisdom (brave preachers might be roasted at later Church Meetings though!) whilst showing gratitude in all things to the Lord.
When we gather to worship are we doing so with love, harmony and peace? Do we see worship as the principal act of the Church? How do we use it to inform our discipleship?
Loving God, since the start of the ages, Your people have met You in worship.
In grove and tent, home and temple, synagogue and church, mosque and gurdwara, humanity still seeks Your presence.
Let our experience of You in worship change us, fill us with love and peace, correct us when we err, that, strengthened by You, we will witness, evangelise and serve Your people. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four congregations in and around Glasgow.