A Message from Reverend, Jane L. Leechford, Senior Pastor
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. – Psalm 84:1-2
A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of pastors across the North Carolina Conference of our Annual Conference gathered in Greenville for our Clergy Executive Session. In the session, we vote on matters that pertain to clergy. Some of the items we vote on break our hearts. Others bring us joy. The meeting can be a very moving experience, especially when those who are to be commissioned or ordained are brought before the clergy to be examined by the bishop and asked the historic questions that John Wesley set in place for the examination of pastors. As the bishop challenges and speaks words of encouragement to those standing before us, we are brought back to the time when we stood before the bishop and took to heart all that he/she was saying to us. It is a holy moment.
Not only do we listen and vote, we sing! To hear several hundred United Methodist clergy singing at the top of their lungs can be an out of this world experience! By the close of the clergy gathering, when we sing a song like, "When We all Get To Heaven," we feel as though we are about to be transported straight to heaven! It's as if the walls and the ceiling of that huge convention center cannot contain the praise! As we sing, hundreds of lay members to the Annual Conference are on the other side of the wall singing their hearts out to God. What an exhilarating experience - the church gathered in worship to our living God!
Giving honor and praise to God is the purpose of worship because God desires the praise of God's people. Lifting our voices in song is one way we praise God. Whether it is a familiar hymn or a newer expression of worship, it is worship! The Holy Spirit works in mighty ways through the multiple styles offered by God's people.
Why is it important to worship together? Why is it essential for Christians to gather together in worship on a regular basis? What difference does this group activity make in our lives?
One reason we worship together is that God did not create us to be autonomous individuals; God created us to be in relationship with one another, and it's important to gather as a community to focus our hearts and minds on God. As crucial as individual devotional practices are, they are no substitute for worshiping in community with others. Just as worship is enhanced by our individual devotional practices, those practices are enhanced by our corporate worship.
The corporate nature of faith is especially important because we live in a time when much of the technology and activities meant to connect us often serve to pull us apart. Ideally, corporate worship helps us to see and truly believe that we are not alone on the journey of life. All people, young and old alike, need to feel loved and accepted for who they are in Christ. And, they may choose to offer praise to God in a variety of ways.
We also gather in worship to lift up and celebrate all that God is doing in the lives of the people present, and to lift up those individuals who are struggling. That's why we take time in the worship service on most Sundays to pray specifically for the joys and concerns of our congregation and others in the community and the world.
Finally, we gather in worship to remind ourselves that God truly is the Lord of us all. Just as we need one another, we need God's active presence in our lives. Regular gathering and proclaiming God's lordship as a community has a profound effect on our faith.
Maybe worship for you is a habit that began in childhood, or something you do because you're expected to do it. However, worship is much more than this. It helps form us into the image of the one we worship. In the process, worship becomes a lifestyle; not just a Sunday morning event, but a way of life.
So, on Sunday, let's come together in worship. Let's lift our voices in praise to our living Lord. May we offer the praise that God desires and deserves. Oh, let us sing! Let us sing for joy to the living God! For in our singing, God hears our voices and is glorified.
Looking forward in hope,