Wineskins Archive

February 6, 2014

Tasting Worship: Feast or Famine? (Sep 1992)

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by Jeff Nelson
September, 1994

The Senses of Worship, Part V

How long has it been since you’ve had a big bite of worship? I had one the night before I was to leave for a week’s commitment of leading worship for the Great Northwest Evangelism Workshop. I had spent hours in preparation but many tasks were yet to be done. I knew of a worship seminar that I have attended in the past. I wanted very badly to go but I knew I needed to continue preparinig. I thought maybe I could go for just one hour and I wouldn’t be too far behind.

The air was crisp with the expectation of powerful worship The beginning praise songs were high-spirited and celebrative.

As the music became slower and more meditative, our hearts became more sensitive. I don’t remember the name of the song we were singing, but the words referred to bowing with the angels in worship and falling on our faces with the elders, lifted from passages in the Revelation. We sang these words several times before moving to the chorus which contained many repetitions of the beautiful worship words “holy” and “glory.” I had my eyes closed wanting to sense being in the throneroom with these heavenly beings.

Making no effort, the throneroom appeared in my mind in more splendor than I had ever imagined and what I saw in my mind for the next few moments was so real I could taste the experience. The room was suspended in space. There was no ceiling or floor, only millions of bright, twinkling stars in a rich midnight blue sky. The focal point of the room was the throne and the shining golden stairs leading up to it. A rainbow of vibrant penetrating colors made an enormous arch over the throne. From the bottom of the stairs out to a point in infinity, heavenly warriors line the room displaying the brilliant gold shields Solomon had made for his guards. Blinding light bounced around the room reflecting from the shields. The light from the throne was blinding also. I realized I was a spectator “viewing” a scene unseen by human eyes.

Wrapped in a semi-circle facing the throne were thousands of saved worshippers dressed in white robes. Between the worshippers and the stairs to the throne was a beautiful pool of water. The song changed to one with the lyrics “blessing and glory and honor and power forever.” As these words were sung the worshippers raised their hands high on the word “blessing,” lifted their faces when they sang “glory,” bowed low when they sang “honor,” and stood with firm fists on the word “power.” Smiles beamed from their faces as they worshipped.

I stood completely still so that no movement would remind me this experience was only in my mind. I dared not open my eyes for fear this beautiful throneroom might disappear. It didn’t disappear; rather the angels appeared. They were as white as snow and with feathered wings spread wide; they flew gracefully throughout the throneroom calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.”

The singing stopped momentarily as the worship leader began to speak. He had not mentioned the throneroom up to this point but now he said, “We are in the throneroom of the Almighty.” He spoke beautiful words of worship and I hoped that these moments would linger uninterrupted for a while longer. As he spoke I stood back in my mind and observed the whole arena of this awesome sight with feelings of honor and humility. The place I was observing is a scene that has always been and always will be.

The worship leader then focused his words on Jesus, beautiful words describing him and how worthy he is of the place he occupies in the throneroom. As he spoke of Jesus I saw that the pool of water between the worshippers and the stairs to the throne was crystal red. The waters began to stir and all eyes in the room turned to see Jesus rising from the pool on a pedestal that ascended above our heads. The crystal red water was dripping from him as he rose, which to me symbolized the sheding of his blood. The moment was one in which chill bumps appear instantly all over. There was not a word spoken but every heart knew the Lamb from the altard had entered to take his rightful place.

A radiant glow accompanied this welcomed Savior as he ascended the stairs to take his place at the right hand of the throne.

I have never sensed such an energetic spiritual moment. Thinking this scene must be the finale, I stood and took in the entire spectrum, hoping to remember the hue of every color and the texture of every thread in this tapestry of worship.

But it wasn’t over yet. The worship leader began leading softly,

There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
Hold us, who wait before thee,
near to the heart of God.

As these words were sung, the intense light of the throne took the shape of a heart. A warmth penetrated the room like a fire built on the first cold day of winter. The feeling of eternal security welled up in every soul.

Needless to say, these words of an old familiar hymn found a new and endeared place in my heart. Until I join this army of worshippers, every time I sing these words, I will savor the taste of a place far removed from my physical setting.

I had an appetizer prior to the feast of eternal worship. For me, this conceptualized being changed from one degree of glory to another. It was minute in the total spectrum, of divinity but it was a taste of what is to come. Perhaps the Holy Spirit led me to this place as did the ghosts of the Christmases in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” intending for me to see this for a specific reason.

I believe it was a profitable decision to go to worship that busy evening, and even though I stayed longer than an hour, I had no regrets, and even proceeded with my preparation with a refreshed perspective. Since I had been before his throne it wasn’t difficult to lead a week of transforming worship. I had glimpsed glory and simpply asked the worshippers to join me before the throne. As the deer pants for the taste of water, so my soul longs for the taste of worship.

I have no profound theological analogies to equate with this unprecedented experience, but I would like to offer some observations as a little “Food for Thought”:

1. What would our faces look like if we expressed ourselves during a feast of worship as we do during a gourmet meal?

2. What spices could be added to make our worship more “flavorful”?

3. Is there any comparison to the repugnant taste of the worship of the Laodicians to ours?

4. Sometime during the Lord’s Supper think about what you are tasting – “the bread of forgiveness, the wine of release.” These symbols of Christ pass over the most vile part of our being – first, the tongue, cleansing its sins and flowing through the entire body bringing the sweet taste of renewal.

5. Is it possible that we are in a sense starving ourselves by not encouraging each other to use our God-given gifts in the would-be “feast of worship”? Many have left our fellowship because gifts, such as music and drama, that would contribute to our worship are not welcomed; thus these “misfits” find acceptance elsewhere and we miss out on some wonderful “home-grown” ministries. Why would we turn anyone away who has been gifted to prepare and serve the feast?

6. Could Peter be teaching us a lesson when he was given permission from God to taste something he had previously refused to eat? God may have been saying, “If you don’t taste it, you’ll never know what you’re missing.”

7. Do our tastes for worship change as we mature in Christ? Can we discover new tastes that we once rejected? When I was young I belligerently refused brussels sprouts, broccoli, and squash. Now, I salivate for them.

8. I receive letters frequently concerning thoughts about worship; what it is and what it’s not. Read these comments and see how the church is “tasting and seeing the goodness of God.” Can you relate to any of these “feast” or “famine” comments?

“Our worship services are like a trip to the morgue!” ~ Arkansas

“I am at a crossroads in my ministry. I am a bit tired of having to spend so much energy gently dismantling the walls of tradition so that some new wine can be tasted.” ~ Colorado

“It’s about time for many Churches of Christ to be able to sing and worship with songs and approaches that are connectable with the culture we live in today.” ~ Ohio

“It takes many elements to create a ‘worship-led’ service: willing elders, accepting members, and openness to the reality of the functioning Holy Spirit in our lives. I don’t feel hopeless, but I think I will have to be patient. I just know there are untold numbers of thirsty souls who need to come to the well – and that most certainly includes me!” ~ California

“I serve with a small but growing group of Christians. Unlike most smaller churches, we have a fairly progressive attitude toward many aspects of church life and work. We have discussed ways of making our assemblies more praise-oriented and uplifting. We’re not afraid to do things in a ‘non-traditional’ way.” ~ Texas.

“The worship I experienced last week was wonderful. I’m ready for an eternity like that!” ~ Texas.

“We are presently participating in the planning of an early praise service on Sunday mornings. There are only a few of us, but we are hungry for a more spiritual experience.” ~ California

“It was so refreshing to have a worship service like we had last Sunday night. There were over 1,200 youth in attendance for this wonderful experience.” ~ Oklahoma.

New cookbooks are being written daily by “worship chefs” who are sincerely listening for new recipes that will nourish the body of Christ. There are new chapters being added to the books constantly. If you have an edition marked “complete,” it is now obsolete. Anticipate new volumes. Don’t let a tattered old men keep you from enjoying the eternal feast prepared for you; preparation that began the moment you took your first sip of spiritual milk. Don’t crave milk any longer ….

“All things are ready. Come to the Feast!”Wineskins Magazine

Jeff Nelson

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