18th August 2013 – 13th Sunday After Pentecost C

How do you arrive at church for Sunday worship? I am not asking about your mode of transport, who you travel with or what you wear. No, I am enquiring about your preparation for worship, and your expectations as you arrive. What is on your mind as you enter St Paul’s?

While on leave I spoke to, and worshipped with, other Christians. It may interest and surprise you that, in Fiji, Sunday services would be between 1 1/2 hours with the sermon at least 45 minutes long. That is the norm! One woman said that after 30 minutes of the sermon she had begun to write her shopping list. She had tuned out! One young man we met, seemed to have an expectation of the presence of God in everyday encounters, both within worship and outside in his work place and community.

At another very cold church, in Australia, a hardy (but very small) group gathered silently. There was not a murmur except from the deacon assistant who welcomed us.

So, I ask again, how do you arrive at church and what do you expect when you arrive? Do you come with an expectation of meeting with our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ, or do you come with a list of jobs to complete and a hope that you might encounter Joe Bloggs so as to manage a roster swap – or check on the state of health of a beloved friend?

In the old days there was an expectation that no food was eaten before communion. In some churches an act of confession and/or penance was undertaken a day or so prior to the service. And why? Because it was considered that these actions would put us in the right frame of mind and spirit for an encounter with the Divine. I don’t advocate that these acts of preparation are absolutely necessary but appropriate preparation of heart, mind and soul certainly are. Do you arrive with an expectation that God will speak to you… and that you will be refreshed and renewed by the encounter? I pray that this is so, but we need to remember that worship is a 2 way street! Our experience is dependent on our own participation rather than our passive observation of ritual. If we expect our God to be present for us… we also need to be fully present for God!

Many Blessings

Reverend Shan