Worship in the biblical sources
and in liturgical history is not something a person
experiences, it is something we do,
regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel
anything about it at all. The experience develops out of
the worship, not the other way around. Isaiah saw,
heard, and felt on the day he received his prophetic
call while at worship in the temple (Isaiah 6) -
but he didn't go there in order to have a 'seraphim
experience.'" -- Eugene Peterson, The Jesus
We frequently evaluate a church based
on the worship experience it provides for us. Did we "get anything out
We want music that transports us to
another realm and sermons that challenge,
motivate, encourage, or entertain us. We may even
hope for the soft hue of candles to soothe our soul
-- and images of beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, and
mountains (delivered as backdrops to
lyrics and sermon outlines) to help relieve the
tension of the week. Yes, we all like a spiritual
But our pursuit of "a rich worship experience" makes
us self-centered idolaters.
Imperceptibly, and ever so subtly, we worship
worship and increasingly act as
though worship exists for our
This same spiritual
blindness afflicted ancient Israel.
In the northern
Kingdom in particular, the "fun worship" of Baal and
Asherah (false gods of the Canaanites) gained enormous
worshiped these fertility gods because they hoped to receive
prosperity, fertility, victory, or protection from them.
And the sexual license practised as part of the worship
found willing and ready adherents.
By contrast, YHWH called people to listen to
His Word and obey it, to pray, and to treat others
with justice and dignity. Not much hoopla; not much fanfare;
not nearly the self-absorbed and self-indulgent worship
rites of the local deities.
Today's spiritual hedonism is matched only by the
spiritual amnesia among us. We forget the nature
of authentic worship when we constantly yearn for
Whether we worship alone or in the
company of other believers, we need to abandon the quest
for a worship experience and embrace the worship
opportunity -- the opportunity to renew our allegiance
and express our love to the Father; the opportunity to
listen for His Word and respond to it. If a blessing
rebounds to us, well and good. If not, just
pastors have turned Sunday gatherings into mass counseling
(or pep rallies) aided by music therapy.
They unwittingly make the congregation the chief focus
of worship planning ... because we let them, or demand it of
Many of us pew-folk fail to
lift our eyes beyond our own needs and desires. Our complaints
(or compliments) about worship services rarely emerge
from our awe of God, but from the level of our
personal satisfaction with the experience.
It will change our lives and our
churches when our
worship becomes an opportunity to extol Him before it's ever
an experience to consol ourselves.
In HOPE -