Unity views on ... Worship
What is more prominent in the Christian world than the worship service? People who have no other association whatever with a church attend a worship service on Sunday. Sunday has been set aside as a day of worship. It is the Sabbath, day of resting from the work of the world. Until recently many retail businesses were not allowed to be open on Sunday.
Most of us cannot deny, however, that we have sometimes gone to church on Sunday out of a sense of obligation. Even though we did not necessarily feel in a mood to worship, we attended church. When we have gone to church in this frame of mind, we have learned that it is not likely we will experience any great spiritual uplift. All of us have either had the experience of falling asleep in church or have observed another who did.
Perhaps we have gone to church out of a sense of responsibility to others - children in our family for whom we wanted to set a good "example"; a parent who insisted. We have learned that to enter into a worship service simply because of a sense of duty is hardly conducive to a major spiritual experience.
There are also persons - perhaps you have been one of them - who attend the Sunday worship service under a sense of duress. These are the persons who really do not want to attend, but do so because of the persuasion (often not gentle) of a loved one. A person attending church to make someone else happy is unlikely to get much out of the service itself, and he or she may even detract from the worship experience of others.
There are those of us who attend Sunday worship services simply so that we can be with other people. Many lonely persons in the world have no social contacts other than through their churches. These are often older persons. Church attendance represents for them a respite from their loneliness, and it is obviously a beneficial practice. In many instances, the constructive social experience of attending church is a spiritual experience as well.
Other persons go to church for selfish reasons. I have known persons who were running for political office who went to church to solicit votes. Businessmen sometimes make business contacts before or after church services and attend strictly for that reason. I once knew a physician who told me he built up his medical practice through contacts he made in church.
There are those who feel that being seen in church is just plain good for their community image. If political and business reasons are the only motivations for attending church, spiritual benefits can hardly be achieved.
Sometimes there are people who go to church just to get away from home. I have known persons who have gone to church simply to have an hour away from screaming children and/or a nagging spouse. These persons often do have a good spiritual experience at church, because they find the peace and harmony they have sought. However, if the desire is only to escape from something, rather than to enter into something spiritual, the benefits of a one-hour Sunday retreat will be limited.
Some persons don't go to church at all. Some of them completely ignore the worship experience in their lives. Others have private and intense worship experiences. Others "attend church" via television or radio. Sunday-morning broadcast schedules on television and radio are filled with religious Programs that originate from all parts of the country. Those who watch these Programs can find them fulfilling if they truly enter into the spirit of worship.
And, of course, there are those who attend church and become mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically involved in the worship service. The sermon or lesson, the instructional part of the service, helps them to know how to live a more positive and productive life. The prayers or meditations, the experimental part of the service, enable them to feel the presence of God. This feeling can be carried over into everyday living and be of great value.
The dictionary says that to worship is "to feel extreme adoration or devotion". In this definition the word feel is important. In the true worship experience, feeling is the essence. What you feel becomes part of you; it builds into your nature. It is reflected in your life. It becomes a quality of your character. It is the light that shines through you.
The alternative here is not necessarily a substitute, but it could be. This is something you do in addition to your Sunday worship experience: it is worship on a daily basis. This worship occurs at any time and in any place that you feel adoration for and devotion to God.
This worship experience is not something that must be experienced in a church. Worship on a daily basis can be done at any place, any time. You may have a sacred and important place in your home - a place where you can become quiet and feel the presence of God. If this is the case, that place becomes your special altar, no matter how commonplace or ordinary it may appear to be.
Nature provides us with many inspiring and natural "altars". The things of nature often remind us of the attributes of God. We can look at a soaring mountain peak and think of it as a majestic altar. The calm waters of a placid lake can put us in the mood for worship. A quiet glen provides a gentle setting for worship. The places and times of worship are endless.
The important thing to remember is the alternative - that is, worship does not have to be limited to attending church; and it should not be. Letting your spirit soar in a sense of adoration and devotion to God should not be just a weekly experience. It can occur almost constantly. It could be called "practicing the presence of God". The quality of life derived from such experiences is indeed great beyond our wildest expectations.
The true worship experience will improve our lives, but it will not make of us "goody-goodies". Rather, it will cause us to be effervescent persons; persons with the magnetism to attract interesting friends into our lives; persons with a certain glow about us, which will make others want to be around us. Our minds will be filled with new, exciting ideas. Our bodies will be energized with the realization of God's life in them. Our hearts will brim with love, and we will live in a world of peace and harmony.
These are the benefits that will accrue when you exercise your alternative to worship constantly!
This item is an excerpt from the book "Alternatives" by William L. Fisher, and reproduced with the express permission of Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO.