The late Robert E. Webber, a theologian known for his work on worship, referred to worship as “God meeting His people” in his book Worship Old and New. Clearly, it stands to reason that man must also be willing to meet God for this to happen.
Several passages in the Old Testament describe such meetings between God and man, such as in Genesis 28:10-19 when God appeared in Jacob’s dream; Exodus 19:16-20 when God met with Moses at Mount Sinai; and Exodus 24:1 where God met once again with Moses and the other Jewish leaders.
In the New Testament, John chapter four recounted the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman; and in Acts chapter two, God meets His people through the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Psalms in the Bible also contain prayers of God’s people in worship and the themes are varied and rich, comprising of praise and adoration, supplication, recitation, and thanksgiving. These very verses are often used in worship services today as praise and as a call to worship.
Many of the psalms praise the Lord for His salvation and His mighty works, reminding the Israelites of their forefathers’ exodus from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and Jordan River, and finally entering the Promised Land. However, John Wesley cautioned that not all psalms are appropriate for use during worship especially the imprecatory psalms, which invoke calamity or judgment against one’s enemies.
Perhaps you may not be aware that liturgies of the Holy Communion are a recount by believers of the salvation story, the full gospel from God’s creation to the new heaven and earth. It is not unlike Moses reminding the Israelites of the great works God did for them, to which they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (Exodus 24:3-8, NIV) They recommitted themselves to God and confirmed their covenant with the Lord.
Even though we do not share the same experiences of the Israelites escaping from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea and Jordan River, we have been set free from the dominion of sin, having been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, born again through baptism and justified to enter the kingdom of God. Being in Christ, we experience with Him death, burial and resurrection. This is the great and mighty work of the Lord, which the liturgies of the Holy Communion continually engrave in our hearts lest we forget.
For this reason, the Holy Communion is not to be regarded lightly and performed perfunctorily. The sacraments are not a panacea for peace and healing to be brought home and shared with family members. However, “extended Communion” can be provided for believers who are hospitalised or home bound due to illness and are unable to attend worship service in church.
The Holy Communion liturgies must be accorded due regard and not to be dispensed with arbitrarily. This is underscored by John Wesley’s strict stipulation that only ordained clergy are allowed to preside over the serving of Communion. I was therefore surprised to find preachers who were not ordained performing this task and leading the liturgy reading in some of the Holy Communion services I attended.
It is helpful for routine matters and procedures to be reviewed periodically, to remember what was instituted and to gain new knowledge. In the same vein, believers’ regular attendance of Sunday worship services is a constant revisiting of our roots and renewing of understanding. May this continue until we join the heavenly ranks in worshipping and praising the Lord forever and ever.