Do you remember going to a big youth gathering where the worship was powerful because there were thousands of people singing in one voice? Some older gentleman (possibly someone named Jeff) walks out on stage after a long period of singing and says, “Isn’t this great! I know this is what heaven will be like!” I remember when this would happen when I was a youth minister, I’d look over at some of my teens who never connected with singing. They’d have a look on their faces that communicated very honestly that they would rather take their chances with the other place. I’m mostly exaggerating but I know a lot of people who share this sentiment when they hear people talk about “Worship.”
Worship is mentioned over 8000 times in the Bible. But, what is the purpose? Why do we do it? Worship is sometimes presented, or at least thought about, as an act we do to appease god and keep him happy. Sometimes it is seen as part of our obligation to eventually receive our reward. These are poor views of what worship is and should accomplish in us. There are many other poor views, but I want to shift our focus to what worship is and does in community.
In N.T. Wright’s book, Simply Christian he begins his chapter on worship with this short paragraph:
“When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done.”
I read this over a decade ago and it is continually working on me. We experience God more deeply when we Gather with one another. The more diverse our interactions are, the more aspects of God we experience. The Holy Trinity is an eternal community in a continual dance of receiving and offering between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The more we experience this divine dance in our relationships with one another, the better we understand God. The natural outflow of this understanding is worship.
We are broken images of God looking to find fulness in His image again. Whenever we find ourselves worshiping something other than God, we are moving further than the image in which we were created to embody.
“Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sex objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch.” – NT Wright, Surprised by Hope
Joining others in worship should reorient our desires towards God. It should shape our identity as the image bearers of God. When we encounter worship on this level, we are reoriented for the mission God has called us to as His co-rulers in this world.
There are lots of places we can go in Scripture to talk about Worship. The Psalms are filled with outpourings of praise. I want to direct your reflections to two passages as we prepare for Sunday:
When Isaiah enters the presence of God, he is shaken to his core because he is inadequate to even gaze upon God’s robe. He recognizes his broken image when he encounters the perfect image of God. In God’s presence, he is made clean. Out of this amazing encounter with the divine worship in the presence of God he then has the confidence to stand up and answer God’s call to carry his message.
If you knew you were in the presence of God when we all gathered to worship, what would change in how you worship?
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures falling down to worship God represent all of humanity and the rest of God’s living creation falling down to worship. All that has been created by God has a natural desire to worship its creator. It does not rest till it finds its fullness in God again. That’s why all of creation is longing for redemption (Romans 8). In Revelation 19, we catch a glimpse of what creation is crying out in praise. We don’t understand them here on earth but all of creation is crying out to God in praise, and we’re invited to join in song.
When we worship, we do not do it as individuals, or even just as our congregation. We join the multitudes throughout heaven and earth. Take time this week to see how the creation around you praises God. What does this show you about worship? Spend some time reflecting on Matthew 6:26 with this in mind.