Thursday, June 25, 2020

Letters to My Grandchildren Church: Worship

My Dear Grandchildren,

Last time, I wrote to you about what the Church is. This time, I’m going to write you about what the Church does. According to Scripture, there are three things that the Church is to do. Today, we’ll look at one of them, the one that I think is the most important of the three. Today, we’ll look at worship.

So, when I mention worship, what do you think of? What is worship? I think that it’s fair to say that most people will think of things that are done during worship, you know, singing hymns and hearing sermons and such. I really think that it’s a mistake to start there. If the Church is going to worship in a way that is worthy of the God it is worshiping, the people doing that worship will need to have a particular attitude, an attitude that goes deep into the soul. And that attitude can be summarized quite simply. Worship is acknowledging that God is God and then responding appropriately.

Let’s take a look at that. Acknowledging that God is God. What’s that? Well, first, it’s coming to see that He is God, and you are not.

Pick some famous person. There is such a large difference between that person and you. For one thing, he (or she) is known by lots and lots of people. And the way that that person spends each day is so very different from how you do that. And yet, there are so many things about both of you that really are quite the same. You are both human. You both need to eat and sleep. You both have a day you were born, and you both have a day when you will die. The difference between that person and you is simply a difference of degree. You are basically the same except that he has more of some things, like fame, than you do.

Rabbits and solar systems, on the other hand, are completely different from each other. What do they have in common? Nothing. That’s a difference of kind.

God is completely different from everything in the universe, including people. The difference between God and anything else is a not difference of degree.  It’s not that He has more of something than we do. It’s a difference of kind. He is God. No beginning, no end. No body but rather only spirit. Not here or there but here and there (and actually everywhere) all at the same time. (How does He do that!?)  And consider. He has made a huge, complex universe out of absolutely nothing. You are not at all like that. Not even a little. He is God, and you are not.

Acknowledging these things about God is the first step to worshiping properly. And frankly, acknowledging them should make you feel a little scared. He is, after all, like nothing you’ve ever seen or touched or known. He is God.

Certain things follow when someone acknowledges, really acknowledges down deep in his soul, that God is God. That person sees himself differently. For example, he sees himself as very small, and not at all that important. And that’s because he sees God as so very, very large and so absolutely important.

Responding to this God in ways that highlight the wonder and majesty of who He is and the beauty and power of what He has done only makes sense. And that’s worship. It starts with an attitude that goes deep into the soul.

With that attitude in mind, the things that we do in worship will make sense. And these things that we do fit into two categories: words and actions.

Yes, words. There’s preaching and singing and praying and reciting creeds, as well as reading and listening to Scripture. There are lots of words. But remember, the Church is a magical place. So, that means that some of the words are words that God is speaking to us. That’s no metaphor or literary imagery or anything like that. In worship, God really is speaking to us. That’s what a sermon or Scripture reading is. But God is not speaking just to our minds. He is also speaking to our hearts, to our very souls. It’s magical. And then, it’s our words spoken to God. That’s what singing and praying are about. Other people will hear the songs and prayers but what is of first importance is that God hears them. He hears what we are saying to Him. He will respond to what He hears. He is the God who acts. The Church really is a magical place.

So, there are words. But there are also actions. Consider the Sacraments. In Communion, something dramatic is going on. Using bread and wine, God’s Spirit feeds your souls with more of the life of Jesus. Communion changes you because God is doing something then. God’s Spirit is also doing something in Baptism. The status of the person being baptized is changed. Through the words and actions of the pastor, God’s Name - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is placed on that person. It is clear now who that person belongs to. He is God’s possession.

No one really understands how God does these things, blessing with bread and wine and water. That makes the Church a mysterious place.

These sorts of things are happening every Sunday when you gather with the other saints for worship. This is part of what it means to be the Church.

So, what can you do with all of this? What difference might this make? The first thing isn’t about what you do on a Sunday. It’s about what you do before any Sunday.

This is where I can include one of my favorite verses.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. Psalm 73:25
Being able to live that verse is one of the great desires of my life. It is out of pursuing that kind of living that it becomes clearer to me that God is God.

So, let me encourage you to meditate on Scripture. It might be good to find a verse or a passage of Scripture that captures something powerful about who God is. Ponder it. Understand how the verse works. Consider what the writer of that verse knew so that you can come to know it also, to know it and feel it deep in your soul. In this way, you will come to know that God is God.

Then, pray. Pray about that bit of Scripture. Ask God to give you what you need so that you can grow into what it is all about as it pictures God to you. Pray that you will come to see more and more clearly how different you and God are.

And then, each Sunday, as you gather for worship, pray for the ability to respond as well as you can to this God who really is God.

I hope that what I’ve written is helpful. I’m sure that parts of it aren’t very clear. But that’s all right. It will all become clearer over time as you get to know God better and better. That, in fact, is something that I pray for when I pray for each of you. And I expect God will grant that prayer so that you will come to know Him better than I do.

With my love,

Grandpa B

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