Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beautiful Worship

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

                        1 Chronicles 16.29 

Somewhere Today

Somewhere today a pregnant teenager will feel seething stares of disapproval as she walks into a sanctuary. A middle-aged woman once shunned by her church will bravely return, only to find it won't forget what God's forgiven. A gay believer seeking guidance and fellowship will watch his hopes shriveled by scathing condemnation. Somewhere today thousands of ostracized and alienated people longing to worship a loving, merciful God will encounter attitudes and invective aimed at keeping them from His table.

The majority will allow hostility and inhospitality to drive them away. Some will never enter a church again. Others will look for a more accepting, wholesome place of worship—a true sanctuary for their souls. A slim minority will ignore contradictory behaviors and mixed messages to train total attention on their Creator and Redeemer. They possess a rare, invaluable gift each of us should ask to receive. They’re endowed with vision to perceive the splendor of God’s holiness despite every shameful frailty and failure exhibited in His house. Their singular devotion to Him makes for exquisitely beautiful worship.

Oblivious Worship

Churches—and the congregations inside them—function in various of ways. They’re community halls where people extol shared beliefs and institutes of spiritual advancement. They’re rest stops for weary hearts, hospitals for wounded spirits, clinics for worried minds, and pantries for weakened souls. They’re lighthouses for those drifting in darkness and havens for those who find their way to shore. They’re symbols of Christ’s resurrection and monuments to His death. And when they open for worship, they function as payment centers to settle accounts with God by repaying His kindness with our praise.

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name,” reads 1 Chronicles 16.29. “Bring an offering and come before him.” Glory offered to God is our currency of worship. We come into His presence to express gratitude and praise to Him for being unlike any person or power in our lives. Every thought, word, song, and gesture reflects Psalm 86.10: “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Our minds center on one question and answer: “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.” (Psalm 116.12-13) Much as we forget everyone in the bank when we’re at the teller’s window, we forget who’s around us while offering God praise. We don’t worship to be favorably seen or accepted. Our sole concern is having God favorably see and accept our praise. Thus, in terms of who or what surrounds us, beautiful worship must be oblivious worship.

Perceptive Worship

Perceptive worship is also beautiful. It’s keenly attuned to the purity of God’s love and concern for us. We offer praise because that’s all He asks and all we can give. Nothing we possess is anything He needs. Worship steeped in the perception there is none like Him opens our minds to know His completeness. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made,” John 1.3 tells us. He is all in all—encompassing everything in His boundless existence. Perceptive worship envisions His fullness as everything we need, everything we seek, everything we love, and every delight we enjoy. When we release our minds and spirits to see God as He truly is, worship becomes a transporting experience that removes us from human imperfections and cares by lifting us into His perfect presence and power. Sharpening our abilities to perceive God’s majesty and might is how we take full advantage of 1 Chronicles’ injunction to “worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

Somewhere today a pregnant teenager will enter a sanctuary feeling nothing but God’s presence. A shunned woman will return to her faith community and find His holy splendor. A gay believer will delight in the guidance and fellowship he receives by seeing the fullness of God. Somewhere today thousands of previously ostracized and alienated believers will bask in Divine love and acceptance. In return for God’s merciful kindness, they will give Him glory due His name, coming before Him with offerings of praise. Their worship will eclipse any ugliness circling around it. May all of our worship be just as beautifully oblivious and perceptive.


“There Is None Like You”—a song of oblivious, perceptive, beautiful worship.

(Tomorrow: Good Fear)

8 comments:

Missy Francis said...

Oh.

This is so beautiful.

Amen. Amen.

seev said...

My feeling is deep gratitude that I experience the mysterious world and live in it.

Tim said...

Seev, welcome!

You touch on an essential point--beautiful worship puts us at the center of Creation, where God's splendor is most overtly seen and felt. And from that, we should think of the whole world as our sanctuary, as God's House!

Thanks to you and Missy for commenting. I look forward to hearing more from you both.

Blessings,
Tim

seev said...

Thanks, Tim, but I'm pretty much an unbeliever in the conventional sense. I can't go ga-ga over God. It's only a feeling I sometimes capture, a wish, and a hope, not based on any rational thinking. Once I start analyzing it goes away.

Tim said...

Seev, given the damage done by so many who have "gone ga-ga over God," your integrity is something to be honored and respected.

Around here, we're pretty much believers in the unconventional sense, in that most of us view God as beyond rational thinking--a hope (perfectly put) that defies logic and can't be fully understood. So you're actually in good company, my friend.

Analyzing God goes away beyond there's no point in it. Capturing the hope is what counts and I'm convinced if we spent more time doing a better job of that, we'd be a lot more ga-ga about each other (and God), instead of thinking because we're ga-ga about God we can tell everyone else what to do and how to live.

Believing gets a bad name because when it's abused (as it so often is) it devolves into berating.

I've read your comment about 5 times now, and I must say for a "conventional unbeliever," it does about as a fine a job as I've seen in making the case for genuine faith. Whether or not you intended this, thanks!

And Seev, please join in whenever the mood strikes or when you've got fresh insights (like this one) to add. You're thoughts are always welcome and valued here.

Peace and joy,
tim

St Edwards Blog said...

Oh my God Tim! Wow, I am moved beyond words, thank you thank you thank you.

Missy Francis said...

Seev! So cool to see you here. We seem to see eye to eye on a great many spiritual mysteries despite your lack of churching. ;) Or perhaps because of it?
Tim, I hope you don't mind, and maybe you already saw, but I've linked up to your piece here because I found it so moving.
Your faith is transcendent.
Peace to both of you.

Tim said...

Fran and Missy, you both bring me great joy. Along with Seev and everyone else, your gentle comments are what makes this such a safe place for kindred spirits. You bless me always.

And Missy, I couldn't be more honored and humbled to have you link me to St. Anne's. I pray your readers will be edified by your truly generous gesture. Thank you.

Light and love always,
Tim