It can be easy to confuse the forms of worship with its purpose. So, if you like, we can spend a few minutes here talking about what we think of as worship here as First Church.
It might help to know that the word used by the Bible writers we translate “worship” means “to bow down.” Now our proud minds tend to resist giving up power and bowing down to anything, but our bodies know all about it. In moments of terrible distress, our knees give way without our even thinking about it. At other times, in an immense cathedral, on our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, at the birth of a child, we will fall to our knees because our bodies just need to acknowledge the immensity of the thing.
So, worship — that is, bowing down — is perhaps at its core about putting ourselves in contact with something, someone, bigger and greater than ourselves. It’s the act of setting the framework, about being in the proper place, the proper relationship. Recovery programs often use the phrase “Higher Power,” which pretty much gets the point across!
Simple answer? Any way that gets our hearts bowed down. There is no right or wrong way! When we gather for worship at First Church, the form changes all the time. Sometimes its mostly praise without a bulletin or liturgy. Sometimes its mostly about coping with pain and trouble, so the music and the prayers and readings change accordingly.
As a church, we do have a history, one we acknowledge with certain responses and readings, but the world evolves, and so do the forms of our worship. We have a pipe organ and a keyboard and use both. Often our pastor wears a robe, and the altar is dressed in liturgical colors. Sometimes, the preacher wears a jester’s hat, and we laugh out loud at shared stories about our love for God.
We have communion, which is open to all. In fact, we try to look long and hard at anything we do that’s not open to everyone. We want to throw out anything that separates us from our neighbors. That is part of the bowing down process for us, too. We try to keep always in mind that God's love is not reserved for a few. We are all, everyone of us, children of God.
So, we serve our neighbors. At this moment they may be the needy, the hungry, the cold, or the stranger. But always, we are their neighbors and they are ours.