Seven Things I'm Learning about Worship
- Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I love the way they worshiped in Ezra 3:10-13.
After the Persians ousted the Babylonians for supremacy in the ancient world, they began to allow exiled and displaced people to return to their native lands. In the late 6th century B.C., numbers of Israelites were released from Babylon and sent back to their homeland, a sad place ever since Nebuchadnezzar and his hordes had devastated it some 50 years earlier.
Holy Jerusalem lay in shambles and the beloved Temple was a pile of rubble. The first thing the returning citizens did was to build an altar at the Temple site and begin worshiping. Then, they started cleaning off the grounds and re-building the foundation for a new temple.
When the foundation was finished, they stopped to hold a worship service. And that's when something fascinating happened.
The old-timers--those who could remember the first Temple--wept. And the youngsters, too young to know anything about those days, rejoiced and laughed.
So, you have a worship service filled with both weeping and laughing. "No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away" (Ezra 3:13).
My childhood was spent in two churches, a Methodist church in a West Virginia mining camp, and a Free Will Baptist Church in rural Alabama. I suppose both were fairly tame affairs, with nothing unusual for the most part. No snake handling, no miracles of healing, no one raised from the dead...
But I wish you could have seen "Miss Minnie" Knight worship. She danced all over the Baptist church. This diminutive octogenarian who normally sat through worship services without a word, but whose smile and sweet spirit radiated Christ, would thrust her hands heavenward and begin a little shuffle that carried her all over the church, up and down aisles. During this time, people were praying or singing. When the praying and singing ceased, Miss Minnie sat down too.
As children, we probably thought it was a little bizarre. But I cannot ever remember any person making a single unkind or negative comment about Miss Minnie's manner of worship. That was how she did it, and she was one of the most wonderful people any of us knew, and that was the end of it.
6. There's so much we don't know about worship, so leave room in your philosophy for change and growth.
Paul said, "We see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12) and "We do not know how to pray as we should" (Romans 8:26). No argument there.
I think we can add another thing to that. We do not worship as we should. In fact, we are probably all kindergarteners in the school of worship.
But one day, we will worship God in the way he intends and our spirits yearn for.
I have walked down Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue in the fall of the year when the leaves of the huge maples were in their full glory, displaying brilliant oranges, reds, and purples, and almost wept. My senses were so overwhelmed, my mind soaring, and my poor soul trying to drink in all I was seeing, but it wasn't working.
All that beauty was on the outside and no matter how I tried, I could not take it in. I might as well have been looking at a picture of it in a book. I felt so frustrated.
Who has not felt that way when listening to uplifting music? Your soul soars and your spirit expands, and you feel so helpless.
I have felt that only a few times in sermons, but I have known it. There were times when E. V. Hill preached that I wanted to stand on a pew and shout to the top of my lungs. My inner self was about to explode.
That's when I have envied the Pentecostals. It appears--I do not know this--that some of them know how to enter into that kind of worship, to fully savor that experience.
But I shall. One day. God grant.
"Dear children, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).
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