23rd October 2020
When it comes to teaching about what it is to worship, I love teaching from Psalm 100:
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
I love to speak of how we are created to be worshippers and that although worship is something we do with all our lives, the role of singing has a vital part to play. When the Bible talks about worship there are 18 words used for worship and the majority of them relate to an activity of worship and like in Psalm 100 and in many other places it talks about worship involving song. There seems to be something in the heart of God that loves music (remember he was the one who inspired the whole book of Psalms which is full of songs).
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:26 about coming together as believers and says:
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
As we gather to worship, singing plays a vital role and is something we value highly at Jubilee. This places us in a difficult position with the current COVID-19 guidelines especially as official guidance states ‘activities such as singing, chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided by congregations/worshippers’1.
We want to follow Government guidance and protect the lives of those in our community and beyond, so do we just give up or all go home and worship in our living rooms alone?
Well, although we are unable to sing as we gather, I believe there are many ways that we can worship. God is worthy of all our worship and so how do we bring our praises before Him as we gather whilst not be able to sing?
1. Come with thankful hearts
So often I can turn up on Sunday, tired from the week, stressed by the journey to church, distracted by the jobs to do in the next week. Psalm 100 continues:
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise
Even in the midst of a pandemic, we still have so much to be thankful for. Take time at the breakfast table to speak out your thanks to God and count your blessings, get up early and spend time in prayer or go for a walk to enjoy His creation. Stir your hearts and come ready to praise.
2. Engage your mind and your heart
So often I find myself singing along to songs and not really reflecting on the words I sing.
‘Lord I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I live for You alone’2
Really? Often, I am selfish, I avoid God, I live for many things other than God. It doesn’t mean I can’t sing this song, but I must take time to allow God to change me, so I am living in the truth of the words I sing. We get so familiar with the song lyrics that we don’t truly consider the words we sing. As the worship band sing over us, allow this time to be a time when we embrace the lyrics and consider where we are not living in a way that God desires for us.
3. Use your voice
Psalm 150: 6 says ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’. We may not be able to sing the lyrics, but we can speak the words of the songs quietly beneath our masks and speak out our praises to God. If you have the gift of tongues, then use these gifts to speak out your worship as the songs are played over us. We also have space in the service for contributions so you can use your voice to share testimonies of what God has been doing, share a scripture or an encouragement and help others hear and encounter God. I realise speaking over the microphone can be scary but be brave!
4. Use your body
God has given us a physical body. We have feet that can dance, toes that can tap and hands that can clap. There are so many examples in scripture of people using their bodies in worship and God is not looking for professional dancers! For some of us, we are far too British and need to loosen up a little in worship, for others we have made you far too British! We need you to remain in the area where your seat is but that doesn’t mean you cannot get your groove on as we worship God!
5. Engage with God where you are at
God knows everything about us. We may be wearing masks, but we don’t have to mask our feelings when we come before God. This year has been hard and as you come to worship, you may feel overwhelmed by being back amongst people, you may be mourning the losses of this year, not being able to interact with others may make you feel lonely than ever. There is a time and a space in worship for experiencing all those feelings. Just read the book of Psalms and find a song for every emotion including lament. Be open before God, bring your feelings before Him, and allow Him to minister to your heart.
6. Remember singing is only part of our worship
Although singing plays an important role in our gatherings, it is just part of our worship. We worship as we listen to the word of God being preached to us, we worship as listen to contributions, we worship as we learn about Jesus from our youth and Explorers Team, we worship as we give our finances into the offering. Our whole service is an act of worship.
That means that you worship as serve on teams. It has taken a huge effort from many people in order to get us to this position, thank you for using your time, energy, and gifts to serve us. As you serve, remember that it is an act of worship to our King.
7. Find other times to sing
As I have already said, singing is an important part of our worship so cannot be limited to just Sundays. This especially true now but applies always. Sunday is not about coming to church and getting your weekly fix, but we need to cultivate a heart of worship throughout the week.
We are constantly at risk of worshipping other things or making it about ourselves and as I worship God, I remind myself of who He is and that He is in control.
Paul David Tripp puts it this way ‘Worship is designed to remind you that in the centre of all things is a glorious and gracious King, and this king is not you’.
Whether it is singing acapella, playing a guitar, or listening to music, set aside time to sing your praises and learn to make it a habit even when we are able to sing again on Sundays.
8. Remember the Future
Sometimes I just need to remind myself that COVID-19 will end one day, we will be able to take our masks off and will be able to sing. But the even better news is that there is a day coming which will eclipse anything we have seen. A day described in Revelation 7:
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Whilst I pray for an end to COVID-19, I also know a day is coming when I will worship Jesus for eternity. Let us have an eternal perspective at this time.
So, this Sunday as we gather, please don’t sing but please do worship.
2 I Give You My Heart, Hillsong Worship