Five times every day, from every mosque in the world, the Adhan – the Call to Prayer – goes out. And the response from faithful Muslims is to unroll their prayer rugs, bow face-down toward Mecca, and pray.
This is second of the “Five Pillars of Islam” – the five vital practices of their faith.
We hear a Call to Worship only once or twice a week – but it is no less important for us. Because worship is the pillar of Christianity.
We defined worship last Lord’s Day as “treasuring God above all else,” so everything we do as followers of Jesus Christ is connected to worship: either it is an act of worship or is the result of worship. It flows from our treasuring God and flows back as a deeper treasuring of God.
Relationship experts will tell you that if your words and actions speak love and admiration to your spouse, your love and admiration for your spouse will grow. That happens when we worship with our whole hearts – our love and respect and adoration for God increases. The flow of worship washes over us like a wave and we treasure God more than ever. I pray that you have all experienced that in your worship.
Our care for God’s creation flows out of our worship. Our service to the people who bear His image flows out of our worship – and they flow right back as we appreciate God more. Even our evangelism has the goal of developing more worshippers for God.
And it all begins for us with a Call to Worship. From God Himself. It is God who calls us to reorient our lives and treasure Him above everything else. It is God who regenerates our hearts, so that we do treasure God and can believe all that He has done for us and promised us.
The Call of God to know, to love, and to serve is ultimately a call to worship God with everything we are and everything we have. Presbyterians and others in the Reformed family of faith have always taught that even our jobs and our daily chores are an act of worship – and not just for preachers and pastors, but for everyone who does honest work. This is referred to – often negatively – as the Puritan Work Ethic. In its purest form, it is a good attitude.
But there is our time of corporate worship – and don’t let that word scare you. It means only that we are worshipping together as the body of Christ. In the Hebrew Bible, God often commanded the religious leaders to “call a sacred assembly.” And that was for corporate worship.
When I was studying Hebrew, I had no trouble remembering the word for “assembly” because it is qahal.
“The kah-HALL toWorship” And in Greek, the word for the church is ecclesia – from which we get the word “ecclesiastical.” It literally means “called out.”
That is what the Church is – the people God has “called out” of the world to worship Him. Since our journey with Jesus begins with a call from God – that is how many Christians begin their corporate worship.
The Psalms are chock-full of such calls to come out or come away and worship. And our Gospel lesson today is perhaps the most beautiful call from Jesus:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
This is the Call from Jesus – to follow, to serve, to rest, to love, to adore. It is a call to worship.
Although there is no command that the Call to Worship must come from Scripture, using Scripture is a powerful reminder that God is the One who calls us to worship. Some are so familiar that you instantly recognize the words as coming from the Bible: “Come, let us worship and bow down,” from Psalm 95, or “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands,” from Psalm 100.
Others are more obscure, so I started listing the source in the bulletin and announcing it before the Call to Worship begins. After all, I don’t want to be guilty of plagiarism.
Presbyterians and others in the Reformed family of faith have not always used a Call to Worship. Under John Calvin’s leadership early in Strasbourg and later in Geneva, worship always began with the final verse of Psalm 124: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
This is not technically a Call to Worship, but a votum – a vow-like statement. It is not an invitation or prayer, but a powerful statement of faith. John Witvliet writes in Reformed Worship magazine: “It signals that what is about to happen is nothing less than the outworking of our covenant relationship with God.”
And so, it is a Call to Worship of sorts. How can someone hear that the God who made everything in the universe treasures us above all else without being moved to worship?
The call is always from God, but sometimes it is in His voice and sometimes in the voice of others. The call comes sometimes as a command: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.”
Sometimes it is an encouragement from others to join together in worship: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us should aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”
And sometimes the worshipper is encouraging himself or herself to worship, as we read just this morning from Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul …”
But ultimately, the Call to Worship is God’s gracious invitation to us to treasure Him above all else. So when we hear the Call to Worship, let us answer the call with worship – not only with our voices – but with our whole lives.