“Let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28)
Most of us – if not all of us – are having to rethink what worship looks like at the moment. Unable to meet with our usual church gatherings, we are meeting for worship in our homes, join in with livestreams, and watching recordings from another place, perhaps from an earlier time.
As I prepared to join in with my church’s live stream this Sunday, I was watching a recording of a worship song (and joining in too!). It was a song recorded at a huge worship gathering at a stadium filled with thousands of people. The musicians were top quality, the production excellent and the sound of that many people worshipping God was inspiring.
Those kinds of recordings are great to have at our fingertips, but they can lead us to think that this kind of gathering is what ‘authentic’ worship looks like. Is it only when the band is professional, the sound quality top notch and there are huge numbers to sing along that our worship is authentic and acceptable?
There is, of course, nothing wrong with such large gatherings (except at this time of social distancing) and they are certainly an expression of authentic worship. But they are not the only one.
These days we are likely confined to our homes, perhaps alone, with no live band to sing along to, or thousands of others singing along to cover our bad notes. Is this authentic worship too? Yes it is. Worship is no less authentic sung on our own as it is with many others. Worship is authentic in the big gathering and in the solo experience. Worship is authentic in the loud sound system and in the silence of our room. Worship is authentic when God’s praise is sung while doing the washing up, spoken while on a walk outside, or whispered quietly on our knees.
The mark of authentic worship is not loud or quiet, big or small, but thankfulness. The writer of Hebrews in encouraging the church to continue to meet together (something we may need to heed when this is all over) tells us that: “let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably…” We may long for a large gathering of worship, but we are no less authentic worshipping alone if our worship is marked with thankfulness.
I have found this a challenge as I have reflected on it. Can I find thankfulness in a difficult situation of self-isolation and quarantine? Can I lift my eyes to God and give him praise for his purposes and his character even while normal life grinds to a halt? Can I maintain thankfulness in worship in the midst of everything else going on? Will you join me in asking God to increase my thankfulness and therefore my worship during this strange and difficult days?