二○二○年七月十八日／十九日 Click here for English version
Who Shall Separate Us from Worship!
Rev Pun Kin Tong
Over the past few months, many churches in Hong Kong have suspended in-church worship services amid the pandemic. We have not stopped worshiping, however. Believers continued to worship online, either via live streaming or pre-recorded broadcast at a convenient time.
This is a balancing act given the environmental restrictions. It nevertheless underlines the importance of worship and the need for flexibility. It is important because worship itself and the ideal way to worship cannot be easily compromised. Flexibility is needed because we should not give up when the ideal mode of worship becomes impossible.
In a worship service, brothers and sisters gather to hail the glory of God, listen to His word and commit to practicing it. Communication and interaction take place among the congregation such that there are no boundaries or distances in worship. After renovation, we have better acoustic effects in the worship hall in the Main Church and the music of praise blend together in harmony. This is an advantage of on-site worship. However, these are no hard-and-fast rules that would hinder appropriate adjustments under unusual circumstances in order to achieve the original purposes of worship.
Acts 16:25 sees Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns to God in jail. They insisted on worship. Just before Jacob died, he was too weak to even bow down on the floor, so he worshiped leaning on the top of his staff (Genesis 47:31). In the original language, "worship" means "bow down," showing that Jacob could not bow down on the floor, so he leaned on the top of his staff. The Jews in captivity could not offer sacrifices at the temple, so their worship in the synagogue became the mode of their spiritual life (especially for the Jews scattered in different places). These are examples of flexible arrangements while insisting on worship. Addressing the different views of the Jews and Samaritans on the location for worship, Jesus said a time is coming when believers will worship the Father neither on this mountain (Mount Gerizim) nor in Jerusalem (John 4:21).
Nevertheless, flexibility such as this is neither due to personal preference or laxity. Rather, it sustains faith in accordance with the spirit of worship and seeks the best possible arrangement and quality of worship under given restrictions. In every worship, we look forward to worship in the heavenly kingdom, "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…" (Revelations 7:9).
Insistence on worship requires more than personal will and desire. It also needs God's power and keeping. It is said in Romans 8:35-39: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution…? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, …nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."