O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”
Sometimes I think that “worship” in our culture is defined based on how gratifying it is to us, on whether or not it is meaningful to us or leave us feeling “spiritual”. Our worship is sort of graded based on how good the sermon is, or how wonderful the music is, or how it makes us feel. I know I fall into that trap. There are just certain styles of worship and worship music that do not feel “worshipful” to me. But, really, is that what worship is? What is the point of worship? Worshippers in Early Judaism believed that God was actually IN the worship space that they carried with them. And so they would approach the tabernacle with awe and joy. They didn’t get wrapped up in worship styles or whether or not they liked the sermon. Worship was about God, about coming into the very Presence of God with thanksgiving. Worship was about realizing that there was more than us, that God held all of Creation in the Divine Hands and was worthy of worship.
So, when did we lose that? When did we lose the notion that worship is not about us? Soren Kierkegaard, when talking about worship, asked that we think about what it means to us. Using his depiction of worship as a theater, think about your own notion of worship. Where is the stage? (Most would say the chancel or the altar. (Newsflash: It’s really NOT a stage.)) Who are the actors? (Most would say the clergy, the choir, and perhaps the ushers and acolytes, those that “make it happen”) Who is the audience? (Well, of course the congregation.) But Kierkegaard would say that the stage is the whole sanctuary, perhaps the whole world, all of those places where worship happens. And the actors? Well that would be us–all of us, all of us bowing in worship. And the audience? The audience is God. I love that. I think it reminds us that we are not the center of worship. It is not about us.
The Psalm reminds us that God is the God of all, that everything is within God’s realm, resting in God. So we are called to make a joyful noise. It doesn’t call for happiness. Happiness, that self-gratifying feeling, is always a little bit elusive. But joy–joy resides in the deepest part of our being. It is that sense of awe and presence when we know that God is there, always there, and can do nothing else but come into God’s Presence, nothing else but worship the God of us all. God desires our worship, not because God is selfish, not because God wants to be honored, not because we in some way owe God that; God desires our worship because God desires us, wants desperately to be with us, for us to feel and know and live in God’s Presence. And, there, there in God’s Presence, we worship. Our whole lives, we worship. Every moment, every place, every piece of our being, worships. O Come, Let us Sing to the Lord!
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. (William Temple)
On this third Sunday of the Lenten Season, think about your own worship. Who is the audience? What would it mean for your worship to be solely about God and not about you?
Grace and Peace,