Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Christian Life: Participation

But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

John 4:23-24 (NASB95)

Sometimes, things happen that we do not plan. I'm teaching a class on 'doxology' this semester - the theology of worship - and in our first lecture, as we discussed our most intense worship experiences, God was palpably, even tangibly present. That day I had just laid a foundation for our discussion with the following definition of worship: Worship is participation in the life of the Trinity - through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit lifts us to participate in the love that exists between the Father and the Son. It - worship - is thus our response to the grace, glory and love that the Father lavishes upon us in Christ which we experience personally in the Holy Spirit.

Worship then is not simply an act or an activity in which we engage while in an assembly of Christians; rather, it is at its most basic, our inherent response to God's love. Worship thus stated is our life lived in, with and before God the Trinity. Our lives become living worship in that we are situated, or placed in the stream of love that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. The Spirit of Life - the Holy Spirit - is that bond. This is our personal experience of God.

Now indulge me and let me speculate for a moment. When we are worshipping God in prayer or vocal/musical praise or even in silent adoration what is it that gives us that 'feeling' of God's presence? I would tell you that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit, affirming to us that we doing what God created us to do from the foundation of the world. It has nothing to do with style or excellence and everything to do with love and obedience. In our faithful obedience, we are honoring and glorifying the Father-Son-Spirit with lives and thus the Spirit lifts us, by grace, into the stream of love that is the relationship between the Father and the Son.

That truth took root in my class that day. You could see the change sink into their hearts and find expression on their faces. This idea of participation is at the heart of what it means to worship. This is the center of what Jesus was telling the Samaritan woman in John 4. Worship is not about the simulacrum of liturgy, but about our willingness to participate in the life of God in the name of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

Too often our 'worship' falls short (and maybe doesn't even qualify as worship at all!) because we don't know what worship is and what God desires from us. So we gather together on a Sunday morning in what is ostensibly a 'worship service' and sing some songs and say some prayers and listen to some preaching only to find ourselves drawing 'doodles' or making grocery lists where our sermon notes should be. Upon reflection, we might be able to say that the music selections were good and even moving; the prayers were heartfelt and the preaching was dynamic, even trenchant - but still, we leave the 'house of worship' mysteriously unfulfilled, yet self-satisfied that we 'faithfully went to church for the week'...

Harsh, I know. But truer that you might think. Worship must begin with our understanding of who God is and what Father-Son-Spirit desires from his adopted children. Worship begins on Monday morning, not Sunday morning - though Sunday morning is where it finds expression in the gathered body of Christ.

This week, let your life be an example of worship to those around you; let each moment of your day be an act of praise to the living God. Like a virus, let is spread to your family and friends. When that happens, worship services at church will become moments of transformation as the entire body of Christ participates in the life of the Triune God!

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