AdventWord 2019: 18. Worship
Worship is an integral part in the life and mission of the church. We are an “ecclesia” because we gather to worship. I consider worship as a high priority and I encourage my diverse ethnic constituencies: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities to do the same.
What is the difference between praise and worship? Praise is thanking God for what God has done. The doxology (Greek “doxa or glory) says: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” When God blesses us, we praise God. Worship, on the other hand, is “thanking God for Who God is.” With its English root of “worth-ship,” worship is “thanking God for Who God is---God is worthy.” An apt example was Job. God blessed him tremendously and he praised God. But when trial came and he lost everything, “Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, fell to the ground and worshipped.” (Job 1:20-21)
Eucharist in the early Church began as a two-part Passover celebration: a Jewish Family meal on Friday night followed by the Breaking of the Bread on the Sabbath. To deal with gluttony, drunkenness and the rich not sharing their meal to the poor, the elders took the Eucharist from the Sabbath and placed it on a Sunday to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.
The first context of the Eucharist were the synagogues. Most of the first Christians were Jewish and familiar with a simple meeting room designed for teaching, the breaking of the bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). The second context were the house churches. The “letters to 7 churches” in the Book of Revelation were addressed to 7 communities in the 7 cities inside the 7 houses. The third context of the Eucharist were the catacombs. These were networks of underground tunnels that became worship and burial places for Christians during the centuries of persecutions. When churches and basilicas were allowed during the Constantine Era, these relics of saints were moved to side chapels and the Eucharists were well established.
Today, it may be hard to imagine an Episcopalian being martyred for the sake of the Eucharist but there were times when Christians were willing to die for it. In 304 A.D., 49 Abilene Christians defied Emperor Diocletian by holding a Eucharist. When asked of their martyrdom, they replied “We cannot live without the Eucharist.”
Worship and Work
One Asian hymn translated in English says, “Worship and Work Must be One.” As faith seeks understanding, worship must influence our work. In worship, we are bathed in prayer, nourished by the sacraments, and we share fellowship in Christ’s Body. History is a continuum of generations of peoples who worship God, love one another and care for the world. God is one and we are one.
The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer provides a variety of worship services and liturgical forms. Throughout the Church worldwide, we worship God in the language of our hearts and the voices of diverse tongues. Our history is a continuum of generations who seek to worship God, love one another and serve the world.
As missionary priest, the Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred (Fred) Vergara lived, studied and ministered in three countries: Philippines, Singapore and the United States. He has served as an itinerant evangelist, church planter and missionary in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente; the Anglican Church of Singapore and the Diocese of El Camino Real; the Diocese of Nevada; and the Diocese of Long Island. He teaches Healing via Facebook Live (Fred Vergara3) and writes a blog http://travelinasian.blogspot.com. He lives in New York with his wife, Angela. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and website www.episcopalchurch.org/asiamerica-ministries.