Psalm 95:1-3 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
When you realize just who God is, what He is, you can’t help but thank and praise Him – unless you are in active rebellion against Him. I really think the biggest reason so many “worship” services are so dead is that those gathered aren’t really focused on the Creator of the universe, the One who loved them so much He sent His Son to save them. Tradition and structure take the place of relationship, and all life departs. If congregations and those who lead them would stop for a moment and really consider why they gather, why they do each of the things they call “worship,” I think a lot would change, and for the better. Sometimes an accurate appreciation of God is going to result in great solemnity, because of His sheer magnificence. Sometimes it is going to result in overflowing gratitude and joy, because of His amazing grace and provision. Sometimes it is going to result in delight and even hilarity, because He is just so good. However, none of those things will happen if we’re just worshiping our own little image of Him, essentially practicing idolatry, whatever we call it, because we have lost sight of God Himself. Throughout history there have been traditionalists – of various traditions – who have insisted that those who didn’t worship as they did had missed the mark, or were even heretics. The problem is, those “new” forms of worship quickly become solidified into traditions themselves, and so lose the reality of worship. It’s not that any of the forms are wrong, it’s that they need to be real, relating to God as He is and not just as we imagine Him to be. That’s one of the marvelous things about heaven: all worship there will be real, and it will be constant, because everything we do will be acknowledging God as He is.
I am deeply grateful to have been introduced to the Charismatic Movement in 1973, because it opened up vistas of worship and relationship that I hadn’t imagined before. At the same time, I have seen that even such things as that can become ossified, set in stone, as people get into ruts and build traditions. This church is a case in point. We have been operating as a congregation for 37 years now, and the only things that are still here from the first are Cathy and me! We have definitely created traditions, some of them very good, but some that are peripheral. As the pastor, I need to hold all of those things loosely, not insisting things be done “my way,” but recognizing that the Holy Spirit can use others as well or better than He can use me. That’s not to say that I am to abrogate the responsibility the Lord has given me as a shepherd, but it is very much to say that we need to keep moving away from being pastor-centered and really move into being totally Christ-centered. Thankfully, I feel that we are making progress in that direction. I need to be sure that my own worship is both fresh and real, not falling back on tradition just because it’s easy, but not rejecting tradition for the sake of being new, either. I too need to see God as He is, and not just as I have always imagined Him to be.
Father, thank You for this reminder, particularly in this extremely tradition-encrusted season. Help me worship You in spirit and in truth, even as I sing the Christmas songs that I’ve sung countless times. May my own appreciation for Your amazing grace transmit to those around me, so that they too may be drawn into a saving relationship with You, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!