by Dan Sheed
Every year on the 25th of April, New Zealand stops to commemorate ANZAC Day. This day always involves some deep reality-checks for me. I find the stories of sacrifice by our soldiers calls me from my normal, self-absorbed day-to-day life to view a different story. ANZAC Day invites me to see a different narrative in the history of our world, to remember it and then live differently tomorrow as a result.
This is all a bit like Israel’s moment of stopping at Mt Sinai in Exodus 19 and 20. After miraculously being taken out of Egypt, where they were slaves to the power and glory of the Egyptian empire, God stops them at Sinai to command them how they are to interact with Him and each other. This is a reprogramming of sorts, a moment of God telling them how they are really meant to be as His image-bearers. The first of these re-humanising commandments is that the Israelites are to "worship no other gods but me”.
This commandment can make God seem a little egocentric to some people, but if we look deeper we can see there is actually something very beautiful in all this. God is saying the man-made gods and idols like they saw in Egypt are not worth their time, energy or money because they will ultimately only let them down. God is the only one able to meet their needs – as He already had by miraculously taking them out of Egypt. God knows the Israelites are going to put their worth into something, and He wants them to know He is the only God worth it.
We live in an Egypt culture of power, glory and gods. We spend our days, weeks, months and years worshipping various man-made gods. But a church takes this power of worship and changes its direction. We, too, can have our Mt Sinai moment. As we gather to worship and fellowship we can notice a God who is miraculously working in our lives. Like at an ANZAC Day service, we can notice another narrative going on around us and our worship can change from being directed to the gods our culture says will satisfy our needs, and instead we give our time, energy and resource to the one who has already done so.
There is an old truth that "We become what we worship” – and it is still a truth. What we give worth to is ultimately what we become more like, and seeing the call of a church gathering is to become more like Jesus, as Vineyard churches we value spending time giving Jesus our worth by singing together. We believe that with our worship we can bless God directly and give Him joy, so we use the words and prayers of those songs to intimately express to Him how we are thankful for all He has done, is doing and will do.
When we do this together we, as Paul says in Colossians 3:16, “let this new message of Christ dwell richly among you”. And in the midst of singing and praying, but also in talking around cups of coffee and catching up, of listening to each other and encouraging one another, or of coming to the communion table or enjoying a meal together, we experience this new story of the Kingdom of God and grow in the hope that it is making things new in this world. Church is coming together to do any of the things that would give you that kind of perspective, and to then live that into the world.