I have noticed several "sampler" experiences lately. Restaurants offer sampler platters and even dessert samplers. Some communities have a Rib Fest where a person can sample ribs from several different vendors. I notice some churches have "summer samplers" of Bible study classes or summer choir. I served Communion last Friday for the close of the week-long UMW “School of Christian Mission" and noticed the next day they offered a one-day "sampler " designed especially for younger women or persons who wanted to try out the School.
Sitting in worship yesterday, it occurred to me that worship is a "sampler" for our life. Worship is not an end in itself, it is a rehearsal of our 24/7 life with God. More than that, worship is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.
I guess that's why my seminary professor Carlyle Marney used to say, "I don't see hypocrites in church. I just see people trying to be on Sunday what they wish to God they could be all week long."
Worship is a sampler for our life with God. So when we worship and baptize a child and declare that this child is holy and a child of God – that is a “sampler” so we can learn to see all children as children of God. In worship when we offer our money to God for God’s purposes – that is a “sampler” so we can begin to realize that all of our money is to be used with responsible stewardship. And in worship when we break the bread of Communion and declare that this bread is the Body of Christ – that is a “sampler” for us to learn that every time we break bread we should remember Jesus and eat that bread as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Worship is a “sampler” to help us learn to live all of our life in the presence of God.
Putting worship into that perspective reminds me once again how silly, destructive, and sinful are the “worship wars” when congregations argue about worship styles, types of music, contemporary verses traditional, and all those other unhealthy debates. Worship is not about us, it is not about my preferences, and it is not an end in itself. Worship is a “sampler” to help us experience, practice, and foretaste our life with God.
As the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).