“God made us; we belong to God. We are God’s people.”Psalm 100:3 (CEB)
As we were starting Two Rivers Church, I went nine months without worshipping in a church community on a regular basis. It was the longest stretch of time since I was born that I didn’t have a congregation to call home, a community I could go to week in and week out. I grew up in the church and we attended every week unless we were sick; we even went to church when we were on vacation! In college, I attended our United Methodist campus ministry worship service Sunday nights. I went from college to becoming a missionary to enrolling in seminary. Every step of the way, I was part of a congregation that I either chose or was assigned to me.
My family was very excited when I was appointed to start Two Rivers Church that we would have nine months with no Sunday morning worship to attend. Some weeks I would worship at a friend’s church; other Sundays I would guest preach at different congregation. Lots of Sundays I stayed home, slept in, made breakfast with my family (I really loved those Sundays at the beginning!).
So I was surprised that after a couple of months, I experienced a longing that at first felt like anxiety. I was restless on Sunday mornings, like I was forgetting to go somewhere or do something. As I sat with those feelings, I realized what I deeply wanted was an experience with God in a community where I knew others and they knew me. I worshipped God everywhere – in the car to music, in silent prayer, as a guest preacher in other people’s churches. But my experience with God felt incomplete – those worship experiences needed to also happen in community where I could say, “We are God’s people.”
We are made to worship together
The entire book of the Bible known as the Psalms is one big collection of poems, songs, wisdom sayings and reflections on God. They were composed throughout hundreds of years and compiled to give form and substance to the Israelite people when they worshipped God. Some of the Psalms are songs, others are poetry, some are meant to be read responsively in a community and others were personal prayers written by people struggling with the full span of human emotions.
This particular Psalm, Psalm 100, was a song used as the people went to the temple to worship God. Imagine thousands of voices singing one tune, one set of words, beating drums, shaking tambourines, marching to the sound of footsteps. Think of the last concert you attended. Remember the moment when the lead singer pointed the microphone to the crowd and stopped singing but the song went on, the crowd getting louder and louder? Remember the power that filled the room when all those individual voices blended together into one? That same power took over the people as they were moving together to the temple, the place the Israelites believed God resided, singing these words: “God made us; we belong to God. We are God’s people” (Psalm 100?). The act of joining voices together in one movement of praise, in one spirit of adoring God, in one experience of knowing that together we are more than the sum of our individual parts, gave power to the people. As they sang, God met them in a mysterious and powerful way; they were known by God and by each other.
Worship isn’t a place we go; it’s a way we know God and each other
When we make our way to worship together on Sunday mornings, we become more than a bunch of individuals driving our cars to the same location. We become one in God’s presence: one voice, one desire, one body that offers praise, thanks and gratitude. Sunday worship in a community that we choose and that chooses us is a practice that brings us into God’s presence in such a unique way. It’s a place where we are seen and can see: where we can lose ourselves in music, engage in teaching around scripture, pray in a variety of ways and be welcomed just as we are. It’s a place where we are reminded over and over that God made us and we belong to God.
The power that we get when we gather together on a Sunday to worship God is unreplicable. That’s why the practice of attending worship as often as we are able is so important; it’s the heart of what we do together as a community. It’s where we are formed as both a congregation and as individuals. Weekly worship is at the heart of who we are and what we are called to be. It’s one of the most important ways we become God’s people.
I invite you to answer this question: what feelings of longing and desire stir up in you when you think about worshipping God? What is God saying to you? How can you bring your full self to worship God in our community so you can say, “God made us; we belong to God. We are God’s people.”