On the next Sabbath, almost everyone in the city gathered to hear the Lord’s word. — Acts 13:44
Whenever Paul visited a town, he went first to the local synagogue. When a Scripture passage was read, he would expound on it, showing how it related in some way to Jesus. Once, when he’d finished, everyone wanted him to come back the next weekend and speak some more. On that sabbath, “almost everyone in the city” came out…which causes you to wonder:
Where were they the week before?
Going to sabbath services was pretty much mandatory in that day. Yet many were AWOL when Paul first spoke.
Probably they had a few excellent excuses. Tired, ill, company, travel. But behind these excuses was the real one: I don’t want to be bored. If this wasn’t the real excuse, then how do you explain them all coming out the next service because they heard something interesting was happening?
What attracted them back was the testimony of a man who claimed that Jesus changed his life. Gave him new direction along with a refreshingly new way of interpreting Scripture. In short, when Paul spoke, they heard an authentic invitation to meet the Son of God.
How well does that stack up with our experience of worship today?
If we proclaim that Jesus is Lord and that the Kingdom is breaking into the world in new, fresh ways, then why do some worship services seem better suited to a funeral parlor than a church sanctuary? It’s the obligation of worship leaders to keep fresh within themselves the spirit that Paul had: “Woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel!”
At the same time, we worshippers need to take some responsibility. Our always-checked iPhones show our need for distraction and entertainment. Worship shouldn’t be a distraction or about our personal interests. It should be about opening our hearts to, affirming our allegiance to, and serving the Holy Spirit moving in our midst.
Liturgy, creeds, hymns are fine. They give a sense of security and stability whenever they find a place in a service. But there are new liturgy, creeds, and hymns that must be written, as “new occasions teach new duties.” They’ll be written when we lead, and participate in, worship that’s passionately driven by the conviction that Jesus is, indeed, Lord.