Wineskins Archive

February 11, 2014

Worship That Honors God Moves Beyond the Church Walls (Sep-Oct 2002)

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by Greg Taylor
September – October 2002

Worship transforms us. Worship moves us from oblivious, self-serving ingrates to more God-honoring and others-serving people. When I commune with the Holy God, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, how can I and those I’m with not be transformed?

This issue has focused on the question of exactly how worship affects God, us, and the world around us. Is our worship intended to speak a word to our culture? Does it matter whether it specifically moves me? Yes, I believe worship ought to both honor God and also move my own heart – that’s what communion is: it’s good for both parties. But we must know our place in this relationship, that we are the created and God is creator and worthy of all honor and glory.

But I wonder, does worship have to move my heart specifically for the whole corporate worship to honor God? Perhaps someone else was moved to praise and honor the Lord in the same service that left me flat. Was someone else edified or did someone else exalt in praise as I wondered what was for lunch or how many verses we’d skip to get to the end of the song? Did I care about the other person, about pleasing my God, or was I merely concerned that I was edified? I think my generation values experiencing worship personally in corporate worship. What? You read correctly–we often value personal experience within the corporate setting. If it was good for me, it must have been good for everyone, goes this reasoning. If it wasn’t good for me, how could that have been worship? The point is this:worship is not for me, but I am still changed by it, can’t help being transformed by communing with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Christians who believe with all their hearts yet sometimes doubt. But in the midst of worship we are transformed by a God who refuses to leave us in the sorry state that we’re in when we enter his presence.

Worship moves us to God. Transformation happens in corporate worship in many ways. For Fredrick Buechner, early in his Christian pilgrimage, the words of a sermon moved him. He listened as a famous preacher compared Queen Elizabeth’s coronation with the crowning of Jesus that takes place in the believer’s heart. Buechner reflected on what the preacher said and how it changed him: “…then with his head bobbing up and down so that his glasses glittered, he said in his odd, sandy voice–the voice of an old nurse–that the coronation of Jesus took place among confession and tears and then, as God was and is my witness, great laughter, he said. Jesus is crowned among confession and tears and great laughter, and at the phrase great laughter, for reasons that I have never satisfactorily understood, the great wall of China crumbled and Atlantis rose up out of the sea, and on Madison Avenue, at 73rd Street, tears leapt from my eyes as though I had been struck across the face.” (From The Alphabet of Grace).

Worship transforms us. It transformed Buechner that day. It transformed Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist,and Paul.Our biblical forefathers all responded differently but one common thread ran throughout their answer to God’s presence. David danced, played the harp; Moses trembled, took off his shoes; Paul fell on his face before the Lord; Jesus wept and sweated drops of blood. The common thread is that they all fell down, their walls crumbled, “Atlantis rose out of the sea” for them, and worship streamed into their very lives.

What happens next is that walls can’t contain our worship. Our walls tumble down. Worship breaks out beyond the walls of our churches and spills into our lives, our spouses’ lives, our children’s lives, our work, our play, our every activity, our every minute.

In Christ our worship has left the temple made by hands and the walls of the synagogue and spills outside the walls into the world. In Christ there is no exclusiveness except for the rebellious who try to stand on their own. And scripture says they will fall, too. Worship that honors God will break into conversations with our neighbors, co-workers, our families, the broken and the outcast. Worship breaks the walls on every side and extends to the East and West, North and South then meets in the middle again.New Wineskins

Greg Taylor is managing editor of New Wineskins magazine. Contact Greg Taylor

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