Thursday, February 4, 2010

Worship ought to do what!?!?

This week I asked lots of different people why they come to church on a regular basis. I loved all the different answers. Some were quite humorous.
  • “My husband is the pastor and I'd get in trouble if I didn't go” (and no, this wasn’t Alyson).

  • "To see my church boyfriend" (I once switched churches just to be closer to Alyson).

  • “Awesome free childcare so I get a break and [some] adult conversation” (I can sympathize with this one, too).

Other answers centered upon the meaningful way we are able to connect with both God and the community of God’s people during times of worship.

Understandably, no one answered, “I attend worship in order to die.” That would be a pretty weird statement – maybe even cause for alarm on something as light-hearted as an internet poll. And yet, that’s exactly what writer Marva Dawn says ought to happen to us each week. She explains her thinking in her book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down:

“In a society doing all it can to make people cozy, somehow we must convey the truth that God’s Word, rightly read and heard, will shake us up. It will kill us, for God cannot bear our sin and wants to put to death our self-centeredness. The apostle Paul exclaims that he has been ‘crucified with Christ’ and therefore that it is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him (Gal 2:19-20). . . Worship ought to kill us – and then enfold us in new life.”

Often, we (and I include myself in this) primarily think of worship as a place where we can come and find comfort for our weary souls – a weekly pick-me-up to get us through the next week’s frustrations. No doubt our God is a God who comforts the weary and lifts up the brokenhearted. Jesus after all said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” But here’s the thing we often miss: God has higher aims than simply patching us up and sending us on our way. He desires to remake us into his image so that we might join him on his mission. God knows that our truest rest comes not from being a little better than we already are, but from being transformed into the the person God has always meant for us to be. Self-centered living, after all, is the ultimate life-quenching burden.

Corporate worship, a time in which we purposefully seek His presence together, is one of the primary places this great work of transformation takes place. By placing ourselves in the presence of the Almighty God, our old self-centered lives are laid low in order to pave the way for a new God-centered life to be built up – a process that is, I admit, as terrifying as it is promising. Which may be why the great Annie Dillard once wrote, “It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.”

Hope to see you this Sunday, crash helmet and all.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth – Psalm 96:9.

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