Category Archives: Worship

Chalice in Wonderland

Two weeks ago I talked to you about reclaiming a “healthy sense of wonder.” This week we have an excellent opportunity to practice as we gather together to take communion. If you grew up in the church, it is very likely that the act of communion has become commonplace. It is very easy to treat this as just another thing we “do” in church. But, friends, this is far more than just something we do! This is our opportunity to commune with God. As we physically consume the Body of Christ, we have the opportunity to spiritually be consumed by God’s presence.

We grew up in a culture that related the word “real” to mean physical or natural, but by doing so we have shortchanged the spiritual world. Jesus told the crowds in Capernaum, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” (John 6:55-57)

Just as it is true that if we stop eating food, in time our bodies will really die, so it is true that if we stop communing with God through Jesus Christ our spirits will really die. The death is no less real. Just as we cannot live full lives on one meal, but must eat regularly to remain healthy, so too we cannot remain vital disciples off of one experience with God.

So this week, as we come to meet with God through the act of communion, worship through remembrance. As you receive the host, remember the times throughout history that God gave Himself for His children. He delivered them out of Egypt, sustained them through the wilderness, and led them into the Promised Land. He provided a way for them to draw near through the law, through sacrifices. Then remember the times He has delivered, sustained, and led you. Remember that He provided a way for you to draw near, defeating the law, through His son. And this week, instead of taking the Body and Blood of our Lord, let them take you. . .into the very presence of our loving, sustaining God.

What a Wonderful World

Do you remember as a child, staring at a blade of grass? Or pulling out a magnifying glass and focusing the beams of the sun onto a piece of paper? Were you filled with glee with the sight of a ladybug walking along your hand? Almost without exception, we as toddlers were filled with wonder and curiosity about the world in which we were placed. What happened? For me, it was television, though the message comes from many other sources as well. You know the message I’m talking about. From Scooby-Doo to Abbott and Costello to just about a million other sources, we have heard the words, “I’m sure there is a logical explanation for all of this!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against logic. One of my college philosophy professors told me that “Logic is very useful for snowing your friends.” And we know that God is a God of Logic. We see God work in process, setting things in order. And we, being made in God’s image, appreciate order. But just as “video killed the radio star,” so too our insistence on everything having a logical explanation has killed our sense of wonder.

I marvel at science. I am fascinated by many of the recent technological developments of the last few years. Science very capably answers the question of process for us; it helps us know what to expect in a logical world. But Science still has not answered the question of “why.” Science can tell us that an infant will grow in the womb at a certain rate, but they cannot explain why the child grows. I marvel at science and I think that it serves humanity well, but we must be careful that we don’t allow our fascination with explanation to kill our sense of wonder.

A healthy sense of wonder is part of our balanced worship life. Through a sense of wonder we marvel at the uniqueness of God’s creation. No two fingerprints, rose petals, stones, snowflakes, etc. are exactly alike. Think about it! God is worshipped by our curiosity and sense of wonder! So, as we move through spring and witness the growing season, let it again plant in us a sense of wonder. Let us make an effort this week to toss the “logical explanation” out the window and take the time to marvel at the majesty of our infinite God displayed in a blade of grass.

Let us join with the psalmist in saying: O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:1-4

Intimate Encounter

We have often heard the metaphor of “the Body of Christ,” and it provides us an excellent picture with how we should behave toward one another and toward the world. Just as a healthy body cannot be at war with itself, so we as Christians must honor one another as fellow members of the Body. And just as Christ reached out to the poor and helpless, the lost and broken, so we as his Body must continue to do the same.

When it comes to worship, however, there is a better analogy. Scripture talks about the church being the “Bride of Christ.” (Isa. 62:5 / 2 Cor. 11:2 / Rev18-22) What a picture this brings! We are the betrothed of God! For those of you who are married, think back to you engagement period. For those of you who aren’t, imagine it. Do you remember the sheer joy at being in the same room together? Do you remember how everything else was laid aside in order to have more time together? Troubles didn’t seem quite as big. And it seemed like everything was going to work out just right!

We, as the Bride of Christ, have this opportunity every week in worship! We get to be in the same room as our doting Husband! We can unload our worries and fears on him, and he doesn’t even mind! This week, as you come to worship, remember that you are the Bride of Christ. He longs to rejoice with us when we succeed, to comfort us when we mourn, to fill us with peace when we are stressed, and to love us at all times. So as you drive toward the church building, stop whatever conversation you were having in the house, and take the drive-time to reflect on what it means to be in Christ’s presence as his Bride.

A Nutritious Part of a Balanced Life. Part II: The worship pyramid.

Ah, that icon of the elementary school lunch room! The Nutrition Pyramid. Its vibrant colors and cartoonish images of food daily reminded us that we needed a little of everything – fruits, vegetables, meats, cereals, dairy, & sweets. It’s funny that what came on the trays in the lunchroom rarely resembled the proportions that the pyramid preached.

In worship there is also a balanced diet. (For the purposes of this article when I speak of worship, I am referring to music; however, these types apply to all forms.) There is worship that drives us, worship that forms us, worship that moves us, and worship that comforts us. You will never hear me willing speak of “traditional” and “contemporary” worship, because all worship is both traditional and contemporary! If we sing an 800 year old song, it is contemporary worship, because we are currently singing it. If we sing a song written 8 minutes ago, it is traditional worship, because we are joining in with centuries of worshippers who wrote new songs and sang them to God.

Worship that drives us is high energy. It speaks of God’s action in the world, and often comes in the form of a song that makes declarative statements to one another, or calls one another to some action. Some examples of this type are: Psalm 34, Onward Christian Soldiers, and Come Now is the Time to Worship.

Worship that forms us links us with the whole story of who God is. It is often grand and majestic, and is concerned with not only worshipping, but teaching and affirming doctrine. Some examples of this type are: Psalm 78, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, and That’s Why We Praise Him.

Worship that moves us is emotive. It can be both fast or slow, but it grabs our emotions! It is worship that seeks to passionately praise God. Often these songs are sung directly to God, and take the shape of prayers. Some examples of this type are: Psalm 86, I Surrender All, Hallelujah (Your Love Makes Me Sing) and Take My Life (Holiness).

Worship that comforts us can be summed up, “be still and know.” These are the songs where we can let go of the worries of our day and be ministered to by the silence. This songs are often introspective of our current circumstances or extolling the faithfulness of God. Some examples of this type are: Psalm 121, Great is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well, Sanctuary, and Spirit of the Living God.

Depending on our personality types and circumstances of life, we will naturally be drawn more to one than the other. For example, I love sweet food. Ice cream, dark chocolate, cookies, you name it, I like it; but I have to diversify my diet beyond my favorite dish, or my health will decline. Likewise we must participate in all the kinds of worship to maintain our spiritual health.

Were you able to identify your natural worship style? The homework this week is to consciously worship God in at least two styles outside of your favorite. Find a Psalm, sing a song, or pray a prayer that encompasses one of the other styles, and work your way into a healthy worship diet.

A Nutritious Part of a Balanced Life.

Worship –
1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion
intransitive senses : to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship.

That is what Merriam Webster says, but allow me to give you my personal definition of worship. Worship is “extolling the characteristics and the acts of God in thought, word, and deed.” It is magnifying WHO God is and WHAT God does, by what we think, say, and do. In other words, worship as singing is only part of the equation. We give worship to God by being men and women of integrity in our places of work. We give worship to God by serving those around us – providing food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, shelter for wanderer, etc. God is praised even in the small things, as when a cup of cold water is given in his name. He is praised when we acknowledge Him as the reason for our serving.

Yet even in our singing, worship is not so much about the music we choose, but the heart of gratitude that we offer to God. If God is unchanging – the same yesterday, today, and forever – then He is not affected by changing musical styles. He was not worshipped more with hymns than he was with Gregorian chants. He was not worshipped more with folk music than he was with hymns. He was not worshipped more with rock than He was with folk music. It is because music does not do the worshipping. The medium of music is merely a doorknob to the door of worship, and that door leads us into the very presence of God. God is worshipped, not by our music, but by our hearts’ grateful response to the redemption Christ provided. In other words, music is a catalyst, but true worship requires we engage our hearts in extolling God.

I have a little bit of homework for you this week. Take a few minutes each day and read a psalm; it doesn’t matter which one. Try and see where the psalmist is engaged in the different parts of worship from my definition above. Can you find a psalm that encompasses the whole definition by itself? Or do they all represent only a part or worship? As you read and examine the psalm, join with the psalmist in worshipping God through that psalm.

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever!