CAC NEWS - MARCH 2022

Why Worship Onsite?


Lessons from the Song of Moses (Exodus 15)

Why Worship Onsite?


Lessons from the Song of Moses (Exodus 15)

With the COVID-19 situation entering an endemic “new normal”, many of our churches are re-opening their doors to more onsite worshippers. Given these developments, it is timely to consider how necessary it is to return physically for weekly services.

What are we missing when we worship at home via livestream? Why might it be worth breaking out of the settled rhythm of online or hybrid services that we have grown used to, or even comfortable with, over the past two years? Or if we have returned to worship onsite, why is it important that we continue?

The Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-18, the first “worship song” in Scripture, offers some valuable lessons on worship. In particular, it gives three key reasons why we should return to onsite worship.

1. Encountering God

First, worship involves encountering God. The One whom we worship must be present with us. This is the premise of the worship song of Exodus 15. Verses 1-12 centre on the lived reality of God and His mighty acts. “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1)

When this song was first sung, Moses and the Israelites were literally standing on the shores of the Red Sea. They had just witnessed the miraculous parting of the waters, opening for them the way of salvation, and then swallowing up their enemies, hurling the Pharaoh’s army into the watery depths. They worshipped before the presence and power of the one true God whom they had personally encountered.

The same applies to us today. We are people of the New Exodus. Christ, the Greater Moses, has opened the way to salvation for us. We have passed through the waters of baptism. Death has been swallowed up by life. Our sins have been hurled into the depths (cf. Micah 7:19). Today, we come before the presence and power of this same God who has delivered us, and we respond in worship.

Onsite worship allows us to re-encounter God and relive the reality of our salvation in ways that online worship cannot fully replicate.

How best can we personally encounter our Great Deliverer in worship? By worshipping onsite. When we gather for onsite worship, we are like the ancient Israelites gathering on the shores of the Red Sea, to behold God’s great salvific acts afresh. In church, we gather in the sacred space that has been set apart for worship, along with all the visual symbols of God and the Gospel, such as the cross and the communion table.

In church, we are also surrounded by fellow believers in embodied worship. Think of the times you have been spurred on in worship due to the people around you. Witnessing other brothers and sisters earnestly praising God enlivens our own worship.

Onsite worship allows us to re-encounter God and relive the reality of our salvation in ways that online worship cannot fully replicate.

2. Encouraging One Another

Secondly, worshipping onsite encourages us to keep our covenant with God and fellow believers.

The passage introduces the notion of covenant in verse 13: “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” The Hebrew term rendered as “unfailing love” is hesed, which expresses God’s faithful, steadfast, covenant-making and covenant-keeping love. In His hesed, the Lord led the Israelites through their wilderness journey (Exodus 15:13-16). The Israelites, in turn, were called to live as God’s covenant people, in faithful obedience to God’s law.

Similarly, we are called today to respond to God’s covenant love. Worship is about covenant-keeping. Hence the importance of regular and committed participation every Sunday, including worshipping and partaking in Holy Communion onsite. Thus understood, worship is more a matter of obedience than preference.

… our worship service gives us a foretaste of heaven, as we enact in the here and now, in our own modest ways, the gloriously perfect worship of God in heaven.

Notably, there is a communal dimension to covenant-keeping. We are pilgrims in covenant with one another. With this same hesed, we are to continually encourage one another along the twists and turns of our “wilderness journey” through this world. To this end, our physical presence counts. It is a mark of our solidarity with and support for one another, akin to how we support our family and friends when we physically attend weddings and wakes.

Today, we have access to a countless array of online services. We might be tempted to engage in virtual church-hopping. But turning up onsite and participating physically in the life of the church signals our commitment to one local church community and allows for our formation in this community. We are better able to stay accountable and watch over one another in love. This is essential to our Christian life and growth.

3. Envisioning Heaven

Thirdly, our weekly worship points us to the glorious destination of our wilderness journey.

The Song of Moses climaxes with a resounding note of hope: “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.” (Exodus 15:17). The song is picturing the Promised Land, very likely Mt Zion in Jerusalem, which in turn points forward to the Heavenly Jerusalem, where “The Lord reigns for ever and ever.” (Exodus 15:18).

Indeed, when we gather to worship each Sunday, we are cultivating our hope in the glorious eternity that awaits us. We are collectively envisioning heaven. In fact, our worship service gives us a foretaste of heaven, as we enact in the here and now, in our own modest ways, the gloriously perfect worship of God in heaven. What a privilege!

It is difficult to imagine enacting heavenly worship online, for the embodied environment and the fellow saints surrounding us are crucial to our worship experience, and more closely reflect the heavenly realities we look forward to. We should aim towards enacting heavenly worship ever more closely than to be increasingly distanced from it by way of virtual worship.

Therefore, let us take every opportunity, as far as COVID-19 safety regulations allow, to return for onsite worship—to better encounter God, encourage one another, and envision eternity together. May onsite worship be an integral part of our “new normal” during and after this pandemic.



Rev Timothy Ang
Assistant Pastor, Holy Covenant Methodist Church


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