二○二○年三月十四日／三月十五日 Click here for English version
Worship that Reaches God
Rev Arnold Chow
Jesus' discourse with the woman by the well reflected the perennial debate on the worship location between the Jews and the Samaritans at that time. Jesus said neither Mount Zion nor Mount Gerizim was the place for real worship. Where then should people worship? The Lord Jesus said: "…the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…" (John 4:23) (NIV 2011). Two points in this verse are worth paying attention to.
First, the Lord mentioned "in the Spirit." It does not refer to our heart, but the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit was raised both in the previous chapter where Jesus taught Nicodemus and in this chapter where the Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman. Worship does not rely on the power of the human heart. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit.
What is worshiping "in truth"? Older Chinese Bible versions have translated this as "with sincerity." But the word in the original language also appears in another part of the gospel of John in Jesus' account of Himself: I am the way and the truth and the life. Thus the simplest interpretation would be worshiping in Christ – in the truth Himself. It follows that the kind of worship that reaches God does not rely on sincerity of the heart. It is just like salvation: Christ is the only way by which we can enter the presence of God. We need to worship in Christ through the Holy Spirit in order that our worship can reach God. Sincerity of heart, on the other hand, is an appropriate attitude in response to God's grace and love. The two should not be confused.
After the Lord's ascension, the church in Jerusalem was subject to great persecution. Believers were scattered. They were not able to go to the temple or worship in the synagogues. However, they were able to gather and regroup in various locations with the help of the Holy Spirit and started their worship to God the Father in the name of Christ the Lord.
Today, it is indeed our hope to worship together at church rather than online. The current alternative arrangements are, however, the best we can have to respond to the love and grace of God the Father under our circumstances.
It is just like some medical staff battling the pandemic. They cannot return home to eat. They can only eat with their families together in real time by video call through a screen (which is, of course, less than ideal). Sometimes, they can only view the text messages from their families or watch videos of their kids sent by their spouse while they eat. Their actions show that they try their best to get close to their family and stay connected with them despite the pandemic. They do not want to distance themselves from their family life!
Likewise in the pandemic, don't we all wish to do our best to get close to God and maintain a close relationship with Him?
Finally, I wish to announce that from Good Friday onwards, we will broadcast some worship services live which will include the Holy Communion to commemorate the Lord Jesus Christ. Arrangements will be made in advance for the cup and bread to be made available to brothers and sisters who wish to participate in the Good Friday worship service or the Holy Communion worship service in April. Please watch out for our announcements.
By the Holy Spirit and in Christ, may we always offer to God the Father the praises He deserves!