Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mere worship

This week in worship, we will continue our series on the ways God blesses our lives through music. We’ve talked before about how people were actually made to praise. We know this, in part, because we take to praising so easily. This is likely because, our enjoyment of an activity, a work of art, or even a person, doesn’t find completion until we’ve offered our praise. After a meal or perhaps an exciting sporting event, we continue the enjoyment with praise. “Mmm…that was good!” “What a game! Did you see that play?” In praise, the enjoyment of something continues and finds completion.

The praise we give to God in church, is in part, our attempts “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We sinners, of course, still do this only poorly. And our efforts at praising God in church often fall well short of our expectations of what that event ought to be like. I’ve known many people terrified by the idea that heaven involves the perpetual praise of God because their experience of worship at church has been so disappointing. Worship seems like it should be easy, but it’s not. It’s hard work to pay attention and to keep one’s focus on God. While there are moments in which our praise of God leaves us in a state of bliss, more often we’re left wondering what went wrong.

In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis reminds us that “Our ‘services’ both in their conduct and in our power to participate, are merely attempts at worship; never fully successful, often 99.9 per cent failures, sometimes total failures. We are not riders but pupils in the riding school; for most of us the falls and bruises, the aching muscles and the severity of the exercise, far outweigh those few moments in which we were, to our own astonishment, actually galloping without terror and without disaster.”

I’ve come to love Lewis’s image. I’m certainly no horseman. The few times I’ve been on a horse, it has been a near disaster. While most of my riding has been awkward (for me and the horse) there was that brief moment when we did gallop and the horse and I were in the same rhythm, and I thought, “Yes!” I understood why people love riding so much. Of course, afterwards, I was sorer than I think I have ever been. Riding is glorious, but it isn’t easy.

The worship of God is much the same way. When it’s right, it’s glorious, but it’s never easy. Which is why we practice every week. And why, when it doesn’t work because we were distracted, or worried, or somehow out of rhythm with the rhythms of God, we don’t give up, but give it a go again the next time God’s people get together to give God praise.

Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together – Psalm 34:3.

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