I must confess that I’ve never felt easy about any of those advertising campaigns urging people ‘to come to church’. I’ve seen too many worship services which were boring, irrelevant and unreal, to think that they will grab hold of the attention of people whose minds are not made up about God. Worship has a massive meaning for Christians, and indeed the devout of all faiths: but for the unpersuaded, worship is always a favourite subject of argument perhaps because it avoids the embarrassment of a personal spiritual examination.
One clear instance of this is a Samaritan woman trying to cover over her embarrassing private life, began a religious argument with Jesus of Nazareth, and naturally she chose the subject of worship. That there was a conversation at all was miraculous really, because Jesus, even in talking to her and in public, was bridging the world’s great divides of race/sex/history/traditions/
culture and religion.This gap went back more than seven centuries.
Sir, the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” John 4:19-20
In answering her Jesus said five things about worship: it makes a fistful (five digits) of worship and here’s the first one:
Jesus declared “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on the mountain nor in Jerusalem. John 4:21
So the place doesn’t matter! All those arguments about which is the right place or the best place for worship are irrelevant. I’ve known people who are blessed enough to have been provided with a brand new church; light, comfortable, carpeted and beautifully modern, but they stopped going because, quote: “It’s not the same as the old church” – “I couldn’t settle in the new place” – “I preferred the old building”. They just couldn’t grasp the simple word of Jesus. The place you worship in is not important. The fact of worship is the important thing.
The other four things about worship come next, but that’s all we’ve time for today.
For now, ponder this, from Dostoyevski (”The Brothers Karamazov”): “So long as man remains free, he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship”.
I thank you Lord that your church is your people, not a building.
Now read Mark Chapter 13.