Beyond the Words of Worship
I was in a Bible study this week with young Christians. When I say, “young Christians”, I mean they were actually young . There wasn’t another person in the room with an arthritic knee or a bottle of age-renewal makeup stowed in their purse. I worked all night to keep my stomach sucked in and the gray roots in my hair hidden from view. Bible study hasn’t been that exhausting in a long time.
The subject for the evening was worship. Why do we do it? What does it look like? How do you foster it? As a 50-year-member of the Be At Church Every Time The Doors Are Open Club, I have heard those questions discussed many times. People generally don’t agree on any of the answers.
Is worship prayer? Is it praise? Is it more than prayer and praise?
For me? Yes. Yes. And, I’m pretty sure, yes.
Worship in my sister’s more charismatic world comes with added questions. Should you raise your hands when you worship? One or two hands? How high? How long?
My answers? Sometimes. One hand. High enough for God to see. But, not long enough for anyone else to notice.
Do you dance during worship? Do you dance from your seat? Do you dance in the aisle?
No way. No how. Not until Jesus comes back and gives me a new body with a decent sense of rhythm.
When I join my kids’ generation in worship, I come away with a slight headache and questions I never before thought of asking. Can worship happen with drums and electric guitars? Does it cause deafness? And what’s with the strobe lights flashing in my eyes during a service?
If you are over 50, the answers to those questions are: Yes, it can. Not if you wear earplugs. And, some under-30 idiot thought they would be a good idea.
Did I say any of that stuff to the younger generation? I did not. I also didn’t say what I really think I think.
I think that perhaps we talk too much about worship.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “Earth’s crammed with heaven. And every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit round and pick blackberries.”
Only he who sees takes off his shoes in worship. (Exodus 3:1-15)
Worship is what our souls do when we see God.
What does it look like? I don’t know.
Describe it? I can’t.
Limit it to a time and place? Impossible.
Worship is as varied as all of Christendom. My sister raises her hands. My mother-in-law lifts her face to Heaven. My husband does worship on the back of a horse. My daughter-in-law prefers a traditional church service. When my friend, Marla, experiences God, she responds with her own acts of service. She says, “I just need to do for people.”
If worship is how each of our souls respond when we see God, the best we can do is to encourage each other to look for Him.
As it turns out, Earth is actually crammed with Heaven. And every common bush really is afire with God. (Psalm 19: 1-2) To those of us who see Him, God is saying, “This place is filled with my holiness. Take off your shoes. Take off your shoes, child, and sink your toes into everything that is me.”
How do we tell someone what it feels like to wade in the essence of God? How do we explain the way our souls respond to the touch of Him? What words are adequate?
It just seems to me that when it comes to the subject of worship, we talk too much.