Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Worship Together

So. . . It’s Sunday morning, and somehow you manage to get to church and maybe even get your family to church for worship. Have you noticed it’s about 10 times harder to get up and get going on Sunday than on other days? Why is that? Is all the effort of setting the alarm clock, getting up, getting your significant other or others up really worth it?

If all creation shouts and sings the praise of God as the psalmist says, maybe it would be better if we all just slept in and then went to the park, or the lake, or the woods, or someplace else were we could see the beauty of God’s creation. If we are supposed to worship God all the time, why is it so important for us to gather and worship with each other?

I think that we individualistic, American Christians have something just a little wrong. We have this habit of forming our worlds and theologies around the word “I.” We state that we are the body of Christ. We are fond of reminding one another that our bodies are the temple of God, but I think there is a greater mystery here that is missed in our focus on I. I think we forget that I am not the body, and you are not the body, we are all part of the body of Christ. Paul says in 1 Cor 3:16, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” It takes all of us to make the body of Christ. It takes all of us, together. You know what they call a body that is all chopped up into little pieces and strewn around a city? Dead. The same is true for the church. If we don’t come together, and be together, learning from one another, encouraging one another, building relationships and especially worshipping together, then we are not a church.

So week after week we come together. We each come in with our own burdens and joys. We enter the worship space and remember that we are part of a bigger story than the one that happens in our homes and schools, and workplaces. We are part of God’s story. Together we renew our commitment to Christ and to each other every time we enter worship. We sing together, and pray together. We are challenged by God’s word together, we are offered the opportunity to respond together. I know that I have experienced some powerful moments of God’s presence when it is just God and I, But those pale in comparison to the presence of God in the midst of His people. Think back to a time when you saw God in a new way, or saw his power in an awesome way. What were the circumstances? I would be willing to bet that it was a gathering of God’s people – a walk to Emmaus, a retreat, a youth camp, a worship service – yes, even a regular weekly worship service.

Each of us has what I call, a worship voice. Maybe yours is as good as the best soloist, maybe yours is passing the offering plate, greeting those around you, stuffing the bulletins, running the sound board. Maybe yours is slightly off key, or a little rusty from disuse, but the truth is without the voices of everyone, our worship is less that it could be. When each of us comes to worship with all of our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our strength and pours ourselves into the worship of God, there is a sweetness and a power, and a comfort, and a challenge that cannot be found anywhere else. It is a foretaste of heaven, a glimpse of what we were created to do and be.

Paul put it this way in Romans 15:5-7 "May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

How Great the Father's Love For Us

For the last several months I have spent a good deal of time meditating on what it means that our God is triune – three in one yet one in three. It is a mystery that I have spent most of my life simply accepting, avoiding the conversation of how such a thing could be. But now, I find myself drawn to wonder not how can it be, but what does it mean. What does it mean that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in this dance of community? Each person of the Trinity performs their task bringing glory to the others, creating and sustaining the universe, reconciling and redeeming creation. I cannot even fathom the love and honor that exists between them. I cannot understand the perfect harmony and unity from which flowed all of creation and the plan for the redemption of all that they created.

And then we came to Advent and Christmas. I was awestruck by the idea of the Trinity, this perfect union that has always existed, being willing to split itself apart: One third pulling itself away and becoming human. The Son came and bore our human frailties, took our sin and our pain, our brokenness and even our death upon himself. But even more than that, He was willing to be severed completely from His unity with the Father and the Spirit by our sin. We are often amazed by the love of the Son for us, but what about the love of the Father?

In my meditation I came across John 17: 20-23. This is Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” Most of us are familiar with this because this is where he prays for us. I have read it many times before but this time something caught my eye I had never noticed before. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (italics mine) Can you imagine: The Father loves us as much as the Father loves the Son!!! Is it any wonder that the Father sent a portion of Himself to this broken world to bring us this message? Is it any wonder that the Son let himself become sin and die so that we could be reconciled to our Father who loves us so much!

As this reality has begun to slowly dawn in my heart, I have had but one response to fall on my face and worship. I am unworthy of such love, but God has made me worthy. I have rejected and trampled on His love time and again, but He returns and woos me back and will not let me go. He gave all to make me and you His treasure, the apple of His eye. You see, to God we are the pearl of great price that He gave all in order to possess. All I can say is, “Thank You” and, “I love you too, help me love you more.” This is the essence of worship.