RECENTLY, a group of people from an adult education course visited my local church. They were studying ``Places where people worship.'' I helped show them around. It was a pleasant visit. But the subject made me think.
The interest of the group was mainly on church buildings. And people certainly do worship in church buildings. But I thought of the many places where I'd worshiped God with no church building in sight. I thought of a sinking ship, a flooded coal mine, factory floors, desert sands -- places where, in peace and war, I'd listened to the voice of God assuring me, ``I am with you. I am God, and you are the child of God -- safe, whole, and free.''
The fact is: God is ever present. The presence of divine Life, Truth, and Love is where you are, where I am, where everyone is, at this moment and every moment.
We read in the Bible of Moses' hearing God saying to him, ``The place whereon thou standest is holy ground.'' That is true for everyone. There is no place where God, Spirit, is not. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded the Christian Science Church, writes in Poems:
Oh, Thou hast heard my prayer;
And I am blest!
This is Thy high behest:
Thou, here and everywhere.
I can recall one especially cherished moment of worship. It was in a time of war. Dawn was breaking; the guns were manned. God's peace seemed far away. Gently these words came to thought:
Still, still with Thee when purple
When the bird waketh, and the
Fairer than morning, lovelier than
Dawns the sweet consciousness,
I am with Thee.
The words are from a hymn adapted from a poem by Harriet Beecher Stowe. They were a comforting assurance of God's presence.
Worshiping God means acknowledging the divine Principle of all goodness. It means acknowledging man's eternal oneness with God -- honoring, respecting, glorifying God by letting the divine nature be reflected in our nature.
Worshiping God in the company of others is certainly beneficial. But if for any reason we're not able presently to do so, we needn't feel despair. God is always Love. God's love encompasses each of us wherever we are. If we're separated from our usual place of worship, we can use the occasion to learn that God is not confined to any one place.
We read in the Bible of a Samaritan woman speaking to Christ Jesus. She said to him that Samaritans had long considered a certain mountain in Samaria to be the correct place to worship, but the Jews said Jerusalem was the correct place to worship. Jesus' reply removed all argument. ``Woman,'' he said, ``believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.... The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.''
The Master's teachings emphasize there is one God, and God is Spirit. His healing works demonstrate the Biblical truth that Spirit created man in Spirit's own likeness; that the true man is spiritual, not material; that every man, woman, and child, in his or her true nature and character, reflects the nature of God.
Because there is only one God there can only be one universal Life, Truth, and Love. No matter what race or religion we claim as our own, we are each children of the same Father, the same divine Love, God.
If, for example, we've been thinking that a particular individual or nation is an enemy, spiritual truth tells us we all belong to the same spiritual family. By understanding and accepting this truth we can start building bridges of friendship instead of walls of hatred. What we claim as spiritually true about ourselves is true for everyone.
Christ Jesus, healed the sick, fed thousands of hungry people, calmed storms, through the spirit of divine Love he embodied and expressed. He worshiped God, and founded his church on the basis of divine Love and spiritual healing. Wherever he was, Jesus gave evidence of God's all-loving presence.
We can worship God in the same way. With the spirit of Love in our hearts we can prove that divine Love heals and that God's love is everywhere. Mrs. Eddy writes in Miscellaneous Writings: ```If God be for us, who can be against us?' If He be with us, the wayside is a sanctuary, and the desert a resting-place peopled with living witnesses of the fact that `God is Love.'''
Glory and honour are in his presence;
strength and gladness are in his place.
Give unto the Lord,
ye kindreds of the people,
give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord
the glory due unto his name:
bring an offering, and come before him:
worship the Lord
in the beauty of holiness.
I Chronicles 16:27-29