Note: this post was written for NZCMS earlier this year.
Yesterday we brought our second child home from the maternity annexe. Our brand new daughter, Lucy, had arrived in a great hurry after making us wait nine days past the due date. My wife and I have been enjoying life with our new, enlarged family. The sleepless nights are yet to wear us down, and the stream of visitors is still very welcome.
Lucy is a lovely wee thing. Of course she doesn’t yet understand about the virtues of sleeping through the night, or doing her business in the toilet (or even completely in her nappy) but I trust we’ll get there. She is, at this moment, learning the rhythm of a new world. There are smells, and sensations that are enlarging her perception and imaginings by the minute. It must be rather bewildering.
So it is with worship. In worship we learn the rhythm of a new world. In worship we remember and rehearse the story of God’s embrace of a broken world, so that in mission we might catch the beat of what God is doing in our neighbourhood and in our families and get in on it. Worship and mission: the two belong together. Worship is where we begin to be formed in who Jesus is and how he loves, and mission is where that formation is grounded in the stuff of our everyday lives. The gospel is not just true in a cosmic, eternal sense. It is true in a local and particular sense as well. When worship enables us to dwell in the story and rhythm of God’s world and God’s ways, it readies us to see and hear how God is working and whispering in our place and helps us respond to the holy invitation to participate.
So worship, like mission, begins with us, but must also draw us beyond ourselves. We are loved, we are saved, we are the sheep the Shepherd left the flock to come after. But that is not the whole story. Worship mustn’t be satisfied with simply thanking God for the blessings in our lives. It must also ask the question, ‘What about them? What about my mum, what about my mate, what about that lady on the bus?’ The rhythm of worship – of thanking and confessing, of listening and responding, of interceding and being sent out – is the perfect nursery for enlarging our world, where we can gradually learn to listen, love and live as God does.
In the meantime, like Lucy, we’ll make a racket and mess and learn as well go. And like Lucy, all the while we will be sustained by a love that is be beyond our comprehension and will take more than a lifetime to grasp.
What does worship mean to you? What do you see is the relationship between worship and mission?
Find time this week to get away from the business of life and worship God in the midst of it all - and no, Sunday morning's church service doesn't count.
Malcolm Gordon is the Worship, Music and Arts Enabler for the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.
For more from Malcolm visit onevoice.org.nz