One of the things we've seen in lockdown is that good relationships withstand separation.
You might have been unable to visit an elderly relative as they struggled to cope with isolation, or missed a good friend that you've longed to spend unhurried time with? Or perhaps you are one half of a love-struck dating couple that have not been able to see each other for ages!?
Withdrawal of 'visiting privileges' has been one of the human costs of tackling this virus, and as restrictions eases in the UK, we're rushing to reconnect with relatives, friends and 'significant others'.
As we look ahead, we're also facing an ongoing 'withdrawal of worshipping privileges'. Another cost, as we seek to constrain the spread of the unseen virus.
Some are grumbling that the government has crossed a threshold in denying Christians (and other faiths) their right to worship. I think, rather, that this is an opportunity to come back to the heart of worship.
That’s the title of a late 1990's worship song by Matt Redman, then Worship Pastor at Soul Survivor, a highly respected youth ministry known for its huge summer camps and excellence in worship. In this video Soul Survivor founder, Mike Pilavachi, tells the story of that song:
"When the music fades, all is stripped away and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that's of worth
That will bless Your heart
I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart
I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You, it's all about You Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You, it's all about You Jesus"
Mike is spot on. Worship is absolutely more than a song. And a season of 'constraint' will help us return to the heart of worship, where it's all about him, and where he wants our hearts first, not just the words (spoken or sung) from our lips.
How might we learn again to worship in this season? Let me suggest 3 things:
Nurture a heart attitude of worship as you walk through daily life. Walk slower. Thank God for his creation. His provision in your life. He care for you and your loved ones. The daily bread he provides, as Jesus taught us to pray.
Learn to worship without song. As you spend devoted time with the Lord, don't just sing along to worship bands on Youtube. Pray Bible ('apostolic') prayers. Use your own words. Spend time in silence and adoration. Broaden your prayer vocabulary.
Bring your hatha! 1Co 14:26, in the KJV version, reads "When you come together, every one of you hath a …." and then goes on to list a number of ways we can contribute to gathered worship. Sure, the list includes songs, but so so much more. Let's learn to worship together, not just in song.
Church, as we come back to what the government are calling 'public worship', let's not be those that grumble about constraint, but see the opportunity we have to come back to the heart of worship.
You might also want to read the excellent blog by Chris Fulton (our Worship Team Leader), Worship in Lockdown.