The early church was a vibrant worshiping community who knew each other and encouraged each other, by mutual sharing and exhortation. The gatherings were intimate and familiar, with shared meals and songs.
The church would grow and change; the liturgy would develop and formalize, and Gregorian chant would become the norm for a thousand years. There would be reformations within the church from Saint Francis, Luther, and others. Luther would write songs so lively they were called “Geneva jigs” marking a return to congregational singing after a thousand years of chant. The church is a constant expression, changing and yet looking quite familiar.
The church has 2000 years of worship to draw from. The liturgy, quotes from early church fathers, prayers, poetry, and the Eucharist (the thanksgiving) all belongs to the church.
What ties all this history together? Today I’d like to discuss three characteristics of worship.
3 Characteristics of Worship:
1) Drawing near- seeking God’s presence:
The Psalms particularly speak of this drawing near. Worshipers describe a longing desire in seeking God.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you…Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you… – Psalm 63
humble, hungry, joyful…
As we draw near to God in worship we enter into his presence. He inhabits the praises of his people.
“God has promised to be present in the worship of the congregation.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
2) Worship, Our gift to God and for God:
Our pursuit of God, our seeking intimacy with God is expressed in worship when we are focused on God, when we sing to God; not just about Him, when we participate in liturgy; not just observe it.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30
3) Made to know God, Love God, and enjoy God forever:
We are made to worship and enjoy God both now and forever. Case in point as John writes of future worshipers (me & you?) in the Book of Revelation-
And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…
Augustine sums up how it is God who empowers us to draw near and seek, to express and worship, and to enjoy our creator:
You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run. ― Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
Stir us up, Lord! Let us love! Let us run!