Worship begins before Vikki or I even say a word on Sunday morning. Worship begins as the people gather together because we gather for a purpose: to glorify the Lord's name, Jesus Christ. Officially, the services at Berkeley begin at 10:00am and 12:00pm. That is when we list times. That is usually when someone starts talking from the front of the sanctuary.
Yet the Gathering happens before this time. In the United Methodist Book of Worship, it says that "this time is both an outward and visible gathering of the people and an inward and spiritual gathering—a focusing of awareness that they are a people gathered in the presence of the God known to us through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit." Some people are raised in traditions where the Gathering time is quiet and meditative. At Berkeley, it has been the tradition to take the time before the service to fellowship. It is usually loud and boisterous with the joy of seeing brothers and sisters and in Christ gathered together.
It is a work of the people to gather together under the name of Jesus. The preacher has little to do with this part of the service. We cannot control who comes but it is in coming that worship begins. It is in deciding to take the time to be with God and walking through the doors that worship begins. And in this time, we each have an opportunity to focus our awareness of God. This can take place in boisterous greetings. It can take place in contemplation. It can take place in a cup of coffee, or holding the door open, or glimpsing through the bulletin.
The important thing in all of this is that from the beginning, worship is not a passive action. Worship is not a concert. Worship is not a lecture. Worship begins in coming. It begins when you come, when Christ draws you close.
So as we continue to worship together, may we gather as one, aware that we are doing something special, aware that we are called to this action, aware that we are truly together in worship.