My wife and I were able to make a safe and swift visit to London recently to visit our son and his family. It meant we got to see and hold our latest grandchild. Travelling that far was a rare privilege after being confined to Edinburgh since March. We appreciated the care that the rail staff took with the journey, as well as the way all the people we saw respected the distancing regulations while we were in London.
It was exciting to join in the Sunday worship and coffee taking place in Edinburgh from my son’s home in London (and show off our grandchildren). I was also delighted to welcome new faces to the coffee, evidence of growth in unexpected times. An exciting weekend indeed.
Then I read Psalm 150 again, what it says and what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say praise God because we got out of trouble, or solved our problems, or that we have a job or enough to retire on. It does say praise God, no less than 13 times. It doesn’t say praise him on Sundays, it says praise him. We are God’s creatures wherever we are and whatever our situation.
1 Praise the Lord. Praise God in his holy place,
praise him in the mighty vault of heaven;
2 praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his immeasurable greatness.
3 Praise him with fanfares on the trumpet,
praise him on harp and lyre;
4 praise him with tambourines and dancing,
praise him with flute and strings;
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals;
with triumphant cymbals praise him.
6 Let everything that has breath
praise the LORD! Praise the LORD.
The pandemic months have been frustrating and worrying in many ways, but I have enjoyed the focus on worship. I know that there are many challenges of buildings and finances. My ministry training was in theology and biblical literature, but I’ve listened to talk about buildings and finance much more than I ever thought I would. I have been part of raising and spending millions of pounds on church buildings, and more to pay the host of other costs that come with being a church organisation. But during the pandemic I’ve been able to focus on worship, and it has been great. I have been able to encourage people to praise God and been encouraged by their
prayers and worship. I have celebrated God’s blessing during anxiety and stress, and heard from others about care offered and received during illness and want. And all of that is worship in the very best sense.
Far from retreating from public view with our building unavailable, through social media and the internet we are reaching far more people than ever before. Reaching out in worship, with worship, for worship.
A wee while ago a part of me was becoming frustrated. I had perhaps imagined that the final years of my ministry would somehow be easier. Was it fair to now be facing the greatest challenge our society has known for decades? Instead of getting quieter life has become much more complicated and I have probably never been busier. I have been able to learn new skills and create new patterns of ministry.
How wonderful to be part of a time when worship and prayer have become the focus of so much. When care for neighbour and stranger has become so talked about and acted on. I thank God for the ability to praise him with you, and with everyone who joins us from afar. I thank God that we can celebrate and cherish one another. Exciting times.
Your friend, John Cowie