Called to Worship, Gathered for Worship, and Proclaiming the Word of God—over the past few months, we have explored these important aspects of our service of worship. Called and gathered by God, we hear God’s Word proclaimed and celebrated … and, we respond. There are many ways in which we do this: prayer, praise, music, baptism, communion—all still leading us toward something greater—a life of worship.
“It is from worship that we are sent out into the world to continue to live the patterns of life we have begun to learn and practice in worship.” The Word propels us to live as servants of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit guides our worship. In the closing portion of 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul gives instructions and encouragement regarding life and relationships within the community.
His focus on preparing for Christ’s return and on the edification of the church is clear. His final instructions here, while meant as encouragement for the body of believers in their daily worship, can also be seen as instructions for a corporate gathering. Paul gives many action words that should be a part of our worship, both daily and corporately. “Respect those who labor . . . Be at peace . . . encourage . . . help . . . be patient.” These powerful admonitions paint a clear picture of what the church should be. This is worship beyond the walls—encouraged and uplifted in our corporate gatherings. When we “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” then these corporate (and personal) acts of worship will influence our daily habits. We will “seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Indeed our prayers and praise during corporate worship must be preparation for a life of service. “A body of believers that is truly worshiping God will be known in the community, not for its style of music, its charismatic preacher, or its magnificent building, but for its consistent, unselfish acts of service.”
When we focus on the biblical essentials for worship, we focus on Christ because he is at the center of our worship. As we gather together to proclaim the Word, our prayers and praise are voiced through Christ—the one in whom we have salvation. We participate in holy sacraments that transport us into the presence of the Father, and we “encourage one another to live out in everyday life the obedience that glorifies God and furthers his saving purposes in the world.” As we experience God’s transforming worship, we are “accepted . . . freely and unconditionally in Christ, so we must love and accept one another freely and unconditionally in him.”
May we be sent out into the world as living sacrifices. Soli Deo Gloria!