True worship: in community

The Israelites were encouraged to regard any particular blessing from God (such as recovery from sickness, or preservation in battle) as an opportunity for thanksgiving, and celebration. This was the purpose of the fellowship offering (Leviticus 3). Any domestic animal could be used; but it had to be fairly large, because it would be used as the basis of a communal meal. After the fat had been burned on the altar and the best cuts given to the officiating priest, the worshipper sat down with his friends and family to enjoy a feast (Leviticus 7:11-18). Since even a small lamb or goat would feed a large number of people at a single meal, it would have to be quite a party. All the meat from this sacrifice had to be eaten on the same day (or, in some cases, over two days). The strict time limit encouraged generosity; the guest list would probably include those who were too poor to make such a sacrifice for themselves.

So true worship is not just about enjoying a private, personal encounter with God. This is because our relationship with God cannot be divorced from our relationships with other people. “Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (I John 4:20). The early Church was good at this: meeting together (both in the Temple and in private houses) and sharing food were an integral part of their response to God’s goodness in Christ (Acts 2:46,47). The Lord’s Supper itself was originally part of a larger meal at which the rich and poor ate together. And neglect of this principle was a very serious matter; Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for failing to be all-inclusive in their fellowship! (I Corinthians 11:17-34)

Worship must have this three-dimensional form; we need to have regard for our fellow human beings as well as for God. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” But at the same time, “do not forget to do good and to share with others” (Hebrews 13:15,16). We could begin by sharing the Good News itself…

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