Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Heart of Worship

RECENTLY OUR CHURCH FAMILY SANG, Matt Redman's song, "Heart of Worship." In the midst of that song we are reminded that the central point of our worship is the Person of Jesus Christ. That got me thinking about that recurring question in my life, and the life of the church, What does it mean to worship?

There have been many books written on the subject, a multitude of sermons preached, and even a few wars fought. I suppose there is not much I can add to the plethora of discussions that have taken place, but I felt that as we are moving forward as a church, facing a new year, and a new tomorrow, it might be good for us to take a look one more time, not for the purpose of finding something "new" but simply as a way of reminding ourselves of some the truths regarding this thing called worship, to which we are called.

As I am working on putting together my sermon for this coming Sunday (January 17, 2010) here are some thoughts that are settling in my mind regarding this emotional, and often highly personal, subject of worship.

First, as we are reminded in Redman's song, worship is all about Jesus, well for that matter it is about the whole Triune God. The danger comes when we place ourselves at the center of worship. When this happens worship quickly degrades into an argument about choruses, choirs, candles and comfort. Thus, if we remember anything iy must me the adage that it is not about me, it is about God.

Second, worship is life, or maybe better stated, life is about worship. This is at least part of what the Apostle Paul was referring to in his letter to the Church in Rome (Romans 12:1-2) where we are told that worship is the presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices through acts of service. This brings up a third point regarding worship.

Worship is communal. After reading Romans 12:1-2 we must continue reading and as we do we shall see that the Apostle Paul turns his thoughts toward our living together as the Body of Christ. I must believe that this flow in his letter is not without design. Worship takes place within community, and this community extends beyond the walls of the church and a given hour on Sunday morning (or Saturday night as the case may be.)

There are most definitely many more areas of discussion we could address, but for the sake of this blog, and my study for this week's sermon, I would like to suggest just one more area of thought and that is that worship is about story.

Worship as story means that it is about living out the story of God in our lives. This story is to declare who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Our "service of worship," whether it be as a corporate gathering on a Sunday morning, or as we spend our day working in a cubical or caring for our family, is to be the recounting of God's past faithfulness, in the midst of our present life as an expression of our future hope in Christ. Our worship flows from the reality of our relationship with the living God.

Worship is many things to many people, and thus it will always be a "hot topic," but let us remember in all of discussions that total worship is what God deserves and worship is the life we were called to live. So, let us worship!
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to worship?

From my point of view “to worship” God means to pay attention to what God has said, and to be serious about heeding his words. To worship is to continuingly follow along as best we can.

Jesus said his Father God had given him a command regarding what he was to say and how he was to say it (John 12:49-50). Jesus also said that the words he spoke were not his own but were the words of his Father who sent him (God speaking through Jesus). So we worship God, I think, by doing his Will in our life (i.e. paying attention to what Jesus had to say and trying to respect God’s Will).

Following Christ, however, is a voluntary activity for Christians. No one is going to throw stones at us if we are slow in learning to worship/follow Jesus teachings, as the Hebrew’s were required to do when a fellow Jew screwed up regarding following a few of the Laws of Moses. God is Love, as you know. And God loves Christians dearly and wants us all to grow up collectively into being the perfect image of his beloved Son.

Your concluding statement, “Our worship flows from the reality of our relationship with the living God” is a good one, and I agree.

Best wishes, Gary

Anonymous said...

Oh, I usually have such a knee jerk reaction when the word worship aka "praise" comes up due to the “praise God” or else phase the church seemed to go through at one time so forgive me if I say something stupid or stick my foot in my blog hog mouth here in any way. Well suffice it to say, sermons can fall into the good, the bad and the ugly categories and I’ve heard some pretty awful ones during the “name it and claim it” and “praise the Lord or else” trend the church went through at one time. It’s not that I’m against worship or praise, just coerced praise I guess.

Even as I struggle with my usual knee jerk reaction to the word words worship or "praise,” I do recall one church I went to for a while (before I moved) where the pastor’s sermons along with the music consistently affected the congregation to the point where I had to contain myself to keep from literally dancing out of the church. It was just as if the light from the pastor’s words kindled a light in one heart and then another person’s heart and then another until the whole church seemed to light up before the pastor’s sermons were over.

I will say that good worship music really does help and when it starts up right after a sermon that really glorifies God, one starts to wonder if the rapture might take place right then and there! I remember leaving that church once and some girl walking out at the same time said to me, “I just love coming to church here. I always feel so good when I leave.”

Yet, I don't recall this minister ever asking the congregation to worship or praise God and as I recall, he certainly put some meat out for the congregation to chew on at times, albeit gently and with obvious love toward the congregation, but nevertheless he didn’t serve only formula.

Why then did I have to literally contain myself when I left church to keep from dancing out the door?

I can only guess that his own worshipful attitude toward God came through in his sermons and was irresistibly contagious. Add to that the worshipful heart of the choir NOT the logistics or candles and it was…well contagious. Well, okay, the choir hit the right notes too. You wouldn’t want to dance out of church if you heard me sing a solo. I can pretty much promise you that, but I digress.

So I do recall some very wonderful moments involving worship and praise although it is only in retrospect that I realize my heart was filled with an irresistible urge to worship or praise God. There, now that I’ve gotten that all off my chest…and am over my knee jerk reaction….

Even though worship is all about God and not us, there is also the inevitable paradox that when we put God first, we are always blessed by doing so.

God really does inhabit the praises of his people And the best blessing we receive in so doing, is Him!!…his very obvious presence right there in the room where he is being praised. It truly doesn’t get much better than that!

But how do we create an environment that is truly conducive to praising God? Choruses, choirs, and candles are nice, but we all know true worship can take place without any of those things. I really have no answers.

I can only pray that God will fill all of our hearts with more and more knowledge regarding who God is so that we find ourselves spontaneously sharing God’s love with others in a very contagious way that makes them feel like singing (in the shower for some of us) and dancing.

As Gary so accurately pointed out. God is love. Now that’s gotta bring some joy to our hearts if the depth and height of his love really begins to sink in.

I'm babbling but I love your open ended questions just so I can rattle on and on.

Anonymous said...

oops forgot to sign gentledove