Worship renewed

by Denise Cryer

Hezekiah – 2 Chronicles 29:29-35

Today we see the final stages of Hezekiah’s reform of the temple, now cleansed of all the old idols, items which had been removed have now been restored and consecrated back to God. This restoration would result in a great revival for Judah as true worship was re-established.

Since the onset of Covid, we’ve had to re-imagine our worship and, personally, my perspective of worship has definitely been challenged! … and changed.

So “what IS true worship”? As we’ve established, the church is a building made out of people – you and I, wherever and whenever we engage with each other and with God. But the temple in our reading had a powerful symbolic role in Israel’s faith. Israel’s God was One, and the people who worshipped Him, were one – the temple represented unity – unity between God and His people, and unity OF His people – for me, with our church doors being closed for so long, this really resonated with me and I’ve really valued being able to get back to worshipping with my brothers and sisters in a church building.

Hezekiah understood that Judah had lost it’s passion for worship and the temple, just like our church buildings, had been closed and Hezekiah knew that getting people back would be difficult, it wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight – the leaders needed

to prepare adequately and set an example. After all you can only lead people to a place, where you’re prepared to go yourself. It would be no good Philip encouraging US back into church if he wasn’t prepared to go there himself. And we’ve certainly had to make preparations as we’ve moved back into St Lawrences – social distancing rules; lots of signs; facemasks and of course – hand gel! So the temple, the church, has been prepared for God’s people to go back into it – the scene is set!

Over the last 18 months, we’ve all been overshadowed by a lot of misery and, for me, going back into church has really refocussed me. Its brought me out of the comfortable bubble that I know I’d got quite comfortable in so I can really relate to this passage. Outside the temple was unpleasant with the stench of all the blood sacrifices but inside… the sweet smell of the altar’s incense. There was definitely a sense, even an experience, of change, of transformation and true worship is, or should be, a transforming experience – when we engage in worship, we engage with the living God! We’re in communion with Him; in fellowship with Him, and when we engage with the living God – we cant possibly be the same ! The Bible teaches us that there is tremendous joy in worshipping God in the right way, with the right heart. It’s not something we “take part in”, a routine we go through, something we DO, it’s a covenant with God to make Him the most important thing in our lives, to give priority to Him. We worship to have God impact our lives. I think, too often, we judge a worship experience by what others do when perhaps we should judge it by what WE do! Do we fully engage with all that we’re offered? Or is it more like a pix n mix of what suits us? Where are OUR hearts and minds focussed? We can all appreciate a good worship service, but worship isn’t what we get – it’s what we give. In Psalm 35:10 the Psalmist says, “With every bone in my body I will praise Him…” I wonder how close to this we are when we engage in worship?
Despite all the animal sacrifices that were made, fortunately, we don’t need to anymore – because Jesus was the sacrificial lamb who was slain once and for all. But just as He gave His all, He calls us to give our all too!. Worship isn’t only what we do in church – it’s a sacrificial way of life, offered to God. Over the last 18 months, lots of people have offered their time; their energy; and their gifts in order to establish worship in the Rivers Team that God is so very worthy of! I wonder, what little bit more of ourselves could we offer to God?
Over the centuries, true worship is a great path to revival. I Kings 18:5 says, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord…” he trusted God with where He was leading – do we trust in the Lord to move us forward through the changes we’re going to have to make? through the restoration of our worship in the Rivers Team?

In Deuteronomy 12:11 it says, “then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for His name – there you are to bring everything I command you…”. God had promised, through Moses that He would choose a particular location as “a dwelling place for His name”. WE are that dwelling place ,God’s temple – through the Holy Spirit God has taken up resi dence within us! So we really can’t hold anything back from him can we? – no sacrifice is too big, or too small.

The word “worship” comes from “Worth-ship” – so when we worship God, we’re giving Him the “worth-ship” He deserves! We’re responding to all that God’s given us. So, for YOU, how does that play out in real terms? How do You worthily worship God in a way that reflects all that He’s done for you? It’s a challenging one isn’t it? I was absolutely saddened when we were told we couldn’t sing in church because I really engage with God through song lyrics. They come, not from someone who can sing, but from a thankful, grateful heart. So – no singing – now what do I do? Its an interesting one because I’ve been much more focused on other elements of the worship service – I’ve been drawn into the fabulous artwork we’ve been seeing, and participating in; I’ve found the Holy Spirit speak to me through poetry, and especially been blessed through engaging with Denise Teale when she’s signed in church, and actually found myself more focussed on the song lyrics through the actions she’s encouraged us to join her with. I’ve found I’ve engaged with God with more of my body than just my mouth!

I’m sure none of us are fully aware of the sacrifices some of the Rivers Team have made, and are still making to ensure that connections and relationships are maintained, even new ones established. I’m sure we’ve made mistakes; not always got it right but I know for certain, and absolutely without doubt, that God is pleased with the work we’ve done! I know this because the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the temple that we are, has moved us and empowered us, through all the difficult challenges we’ve faced, to be engaging and proactive in the world around us!
The same paths taken by Hezekiah are available to us today too … are we willing to travel them?
Amen.