How do you like to worship God? That question gets many different answers. Some might say, “I like to worship God through music.” Others might prefer to sit on the beach or hike through the woods observing the majesty of God’s creation. Still others will relate how being at church or reading the Bible is their favorite way to worship God. All of these are good. God is certainly pleased by our desire to focus on Him in some way. Now, let’s ask a different question. How does God want us to worship Him?
We don’t have to read very far in the Bible before realizing that our worship preferences often depart from what God asks of us. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy because God accepted Abele’s offering. The Israelites made a golden calf as a form of worship. Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land because he departed from God’s instructions. Saul got in trouble because he didn’t honor God the way the prophet said he should. There are plenty of examples. The point is that there is God’s way and there is our way. We tend to do things our way. Worship is no exception.
The other day I saw a yard sign that had been placed near a public park. The sign was an advertisement for a church. The sign said, “Doing church a whole new way.” I understand completely the reason for the sign. They are trying to attract people to their church through creative marketing and new methodologies. I have been a board member and a minister in churches that were faced with the same challenge of how to increase attendance. Many churches have tried creative things to draw people in. While it is not bad to use creativity, it creates problems when God’s preferred method of worship is neglected, abused or even eliminated.
One problem is that we have become a society of spectators. We like to sit in front of screens or stages and be entertained too much. Hence, many churches are akin to attending a concert or going to a movie or a sporting event. Get your coffee or other refreshment, take it with you into the venue, sit down and observe and listen. Church has become primarily a spectator event. Participation in such church events might consist of singing a song (if you feel like it) or maybe giving an occasional shout of approval. But that is something one can also do at a baseball game. One can sing the national anthem at the start of the game, sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game at the seventh inning and give a shout when one’s team scores. And, of course, one can have a drink and a hot dog while enjoying the event. This is what many churches have become modeled after: a venue for spectators to enjoy.
Worship is not for spectators. Worship is for participants. True worship also cannot be invented by us because it has already been instituted by God. Jesus Christ Himself instituted Christian worship at The Last Supper. He took bread and wine, turned it into Himself and instructed His disciples to eat and drink of His Body and His Blood (“this is my body, this is my blood”). The Last Supper was the first Mass.
The Mass is not for spectators. The believing Christian participates in every aspect of the Mass through his/her universal priesthood (not to be confused with the ordained priesthood). Many Catholics don’t even realize that they are members of the priesthood of believers by virtue of their baptism. We are not supposed to be merely observing the Mass and the actions of the ordained priest, but joining with the priest and every aspect of the supreme sacrifice of Christ (“through Him, with Him and in Him”). The Mass unites us with Christ and with each other. This is the worship that God wants from us. He wants us to be conformed to Christ by partaking of the entire Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity).
People that are bored with the Mass do not understand the Mass. The Mass does not depend upon the quality of the music or the dynamism of the preacher. The Mass does not depend upon how well or how loudly the congregants sing. The Mass does not depend upon how socially outgoing or how shy the people may be. The Mass does not depend upon how entertained or inspired people may or may not “feel.” The Mass is no place for coffee or other refreshments because the food that is offered is The Word of God made flesh, The Living Bread, Jesus Christ Himself. You don’t need to bring your own food to a banquet supplied by God!
“The Mass” is the answer to the question, “How does God want the Christian to worship?” The answer has been the same for 2000 years, ever since Jesus Christ instituted the first Mass in the Upper Room with His newly ordained priests. Jesus showed them how He wanted them to worship, and they passed it down through the centuries. No other form of worship needs to be “invented” by us. Whatever we may come up with is less than what God asks of us. Any other form of worship ultimately becomes more about us than about God. We may even fall into idolatry as we seek our own worship “preferences.”
If we are in any way unsatisfied with God’s method of worship, the problem is with us, not with the worship method. We don’t need to “do church in a whole new way.” We need to be converted and see God’s true form of worship the way He wants us to see it. Our creativity should be focused not on changing God’s method of Christian worship, but on finding ways to help people understand and love the worship that Christ instituted.
Help people understand and love Christ’s Holy Mass! It will change their lives!