As a kid in the little church where I grew up, the “worship service” was the interminable hour of the week that, if suitably endured without complaint or fidget, would be followed by the biggest meal of the week, often with dessert, and a lazy Sunday afternoon free of schoolwork or chores. But that hour! I remember hard wooden pews, “grown up” hymns with forgettable melodies and more verses than there were Brady Bunch kids, indecipherable liturgies, and Bible readings that never seemed to include the cool stories that were taught in Sunday School just the hour before.
It wasn’t that I hated it, but I tolerated it like the last class before the end of the school day with an eye on the clock and my mind on the freedom that the bell would bring. What a loss! I wish I knew then what I know now. What I know now is that worship is broad enough to surround everything I do, and deep enough to inform all my loss, pain and grief.
Worship is everything
That “interminable hour” has blossomed into what I believe to be the only true activity in life–the only thing that really matters, the only thing that endures, the only thing that can be offered to God or others without the taint of our grubby, fallen humanness. And it isn’t just the babbled words of the liturgies, hymns, or praise songs. It is everything.
What does worship look like?
Worship isn’t an hour of forced activity (or to a kid, forced inactivity). Worship is everything that we do, consciously or unconsciously, aesthetically or practical, noble or base, that reflects the character of God with the intent to honor God. It’s anything from singing Handel’s Messiah onstage for the Queen of England to slinging a bowl of cold cereal for a five-year-old before you’ve had your own morning coffee. In fact, it’s probably more the latter than the former.
Worship is the split second prayer before eyes even open that says “Thank you for today, Lord. Please go with me.” It’s a response to the prompting to send an encouraging text, make time for another over coffee, or even just sit quietly next to another. It’s not constrained to hands and voices engaged at church. It spills out of a life that’s filled and overflowing with the presence of God’s spirit. If it’s not present outside the church, it won’t be present inside.
Believers don’t GO to church to worship, they BRING their worship to church. It doesn’t move from the church to our lives. It starts in each heart, pulses through each life during the week, and only finds an explicit vocal expression for a tiny sliver of time at a weekend worship service. A “worship service” then becomes merely a melodic affirmation by voices already vibrant with the presence and work of God in their lives. You may not sing a note Monday through Saturday, but a life of praise echoes in the halls of heaven more sweetly than anything sung by Ariana Grande, Whitney Houston, or Julie Andrews.
We “get to” worship
This isn’t an “oughtta” or “gotta” thing. It’s a “getta” thing. We get to worship. God inhabits the praises of his people (Ps 22:3), and exalts their praise (Ps 148:14). His are the whistles and stomping feet from the far reaches of the audience. The door is open and his arms are wide. This is a privilege that comes from relationship with God. Unbelievers don’t have this privilege. They have no relationship with God and are unable to worship God.
This sense of “get to,” and of the open door we are given is unbelievably encouraging to me. This is where it’s a wonder. God affirms my atonal, raspy-throated voice, and he affirms the worship from my atonal, raspy-throated life. The tiny, tentative crumbs I can offer are deemed worthy of a king and are given the same standing as if they were made of gold, packaged in tiny aqua Tiffany boxes, and hand delivered by a butler in tuxedo arriving in a long black limo.
So what’s the application here? It’s NOT a “to do.” Those get lost, pushed aside or ignored for lack of priority or lack of interest. Me, I see an open door. I can’t wait to see what’s on the other side. Will you join me?
Depression doesn’t have to become a permanent part of life.
There is hope.
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the companion Hope Prevails Bible Study help the reader understand how depression comes to be, recover their joy, reclaim their peace, and re-establish their true identity, while knowing their worth, remembering their secure destiny, and being confident that nothing separates them from God’s love.
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Author of Fool-proofing Your Life and Same Life, New Story