As I write I am still suffering the effects of jet lag, having visited our son and his family in Canada. We are having to set an alarm every time we go to sleep, even if it is only likely to be a cat-nap. There is no guarantee that we will wake up at an appropriate time otherwise.
An overseas visit is always an interesting experience, especially when it comes to worshipping with other people. I am really grateful to say that we had a much better experience of worship than we did in our February break in this country. There were very familiar things that always make you feel comfortable – we were called to worship from Scripture; we sang traditional hymns and contemporary songs; The Bible was read publicly twice in each service; prayer was offered and benedictions pronounced and central to each service was the preached Word.
There were however things that were different – we met in a cinema rather than a chapel building, singing was led by a vocalist with music provided by keyboard, guitars and drums. We all got up to collect our own elements in communion. Although they have a team of two pastors the services were led by others and a number of people contributed. Like us, refreshments were available after the service, but we helped ourselves rather than being served.
There was one big difference that really encouraged me – even though I was not the preacher people wanted to talk about the message. It was not simply a comment on whether the preaching had been good or bad, but rather an interaction with what had been taught and how we were to respond to it.
Is that how we respond to the Word of God? If you read Scripture you will find in various situations there is response. In Acts 2:37 the hearers interrupt Peter and ask “What shall we do?” In contrast to that in Luke 2:28,29 people were so angry with The Lord Jesus that they tried to throw him off the brow of a hill. The Berean people in Acts 17 checked to see that what Paul preached was in fact Biblical and in Malachi 3:16 we are told that “those who feared the LORD (Old Testament believers) spoke with one another”
So the question I want to raise in this letter is “What do we do at the close of the service?” There are some who leave the chapel very promptly, but many of us stay to talk with others. On what do those conversations focus? I am sure that they can cover many worthy topics, but how often do we respond to the Word as we talk together? That sort of interactive discussion can be as important as what is stated in the message itself, because it is responding to the Word. The more time we spend in the Word, the more it is likely to be hidden in our hearts and if it is hidden in our hearts the more likely we are to grow spiritually and the less likely we are to sin against God.
It is good to worship in other cultural settings, because it helps us to understand what is essential to worship and what is culturally convenient, therefore not binding on all people, however hearing the Word, responding to and obeying the Word are essential. Let’s ask God to help us to talk with one another about the message after a service, in order that we might build one another up in our most holy faith.
One very grateful worshipper,
Bernard Lewis July 2018