Features, Highlights

Punctuating our lives with a , . ; ? !

WORSHIP services are the punctuation marks of our lives. Like punctuation marks, the worship service can be an indication of the end of a thought and the beginning of a new idea. A mark is also something significant; we mark our calendars with public holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. A worship service is a significant mark – the Holy Communion Service is a significant reminder for us of God’s goodness in our lives.

Often, worship is a “,” a comma, a pause in the week for us to re-orientate our harried lives back to the One who must be at the centre, and then (since it is only a comma, a pause) to rush back out into the world.

Sometimes, worship is a “.” a full-stop. A time and place when we come to a full stop, and allow Him to change and mould and refine us. As a result, we start a new sentence, or phase, or paragraph in our lives. After worship, we may change the direction of our lives.

Occasionally, worship is “!” or even “?”. These are major moments. Unlike the more unassuming “,” and “.” which are there, quietly, the “!” and the “?” are at the same height of Capital Letters. These worship services make us Stand Up and Take Notice.

When worship is an “!” we reach a high, we are astounded and amazed, we feel that we have glimpsed the glory and majesty of God. We feel that we can really do great things for God, for it is an exclamation of joy and awe and majesty and wonder. Of necessity, these are rare moments. I know someone, in whose prayer letters every other sentence was punctuated with “!”. Not only did I find it tiring to read, having to “!” all the time; I wondered when the real high points of his life were, for everything was so “!”.

Most of us are uncomfortable with a “?” worship service. These worship services don’t answer our questions, but raise them. (I’m not speaking about messy services which leave us wondering what was going on; more of a “??” service.) Rather, a “?” worship service is when we are challenged and provoked by a passage of scripture, by a question in the sermon, by a hymn. But we don’t like questions, whether in life, or in doctrine or in practice. They make us uncomfortable. We want something definite, and not be left hanging.

A “?” must always be followed immediately by a “.”. It is good if the “?” forces us to struggle and look for answers.

But in reality, that doesn’t always happen, and we are left hanging with the “?”.

There are a couple of other punctuation marks which I like, though they are not commonly used. I like the “;” because unlike a “,” the “;” means that there is a change in thought or idea in the sentence; and yet, there is also continuity. Some pauses in our lives are longer than a “,” and hence the “;” describes it so well. A season of worship, such as Lent, can therefore be a meaningful, longer pause in life.

When our worship is in the truth of God’s word, and in the holiness of His spirit; we are then led out of worship to continue in that same spirit to serve and minister God’s grace in the messy and sinful world in which we live. The “;” is also a little mischievous, for we think that is the end; only to find that there is a continuation. The worship service does not end at 10.30 am on Sunday; it continues throughout the week in our daily worship of the living God.

Finally there is the “:” which is used to indicate that there is more, perhaps a detailed description of what is to come. So when we say “worship: adoration, prayer, intercession and service” we are describing what some of the components of worship are. We could just as well say “worship: worth-ship: giving God all the worth that is due to Him”. I like the “:” because it suggests an openness, a promise of something more that is to come. Worship which is “:” makes us pause and open ourselves to God. When we are open, we understand and experience a new dimension of God which astounds us “!”. We also allow God to take control of more of our lives; perhaps helping us to live with the “?”.

On another plane, when worship is “:” we anticipate what is to come – the multitudes from every tongue, people, tribe and nation, worshipping the Lamb who was slain. Then, and only then is there a real “.”.

(With thanks to J. D. Walt, Dean of Chapel of Asbury Theological Seminary; and Pico Iyer.)

Kwa Kiem Kiok, a member of Trinity Methodist Church, is on sabbatical at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the United States.


‘When worship is an “!” we reach a high, we are astounded and amazed, we feel that we have glimpsed the glory and majesty of God. We feel that we can really do great things for God, for it is an exclamation of joy and awe and majesty and wonder.’