Have you ever found difficulty ‘turning it on’ and ‘worshipping’? You wouldn’t be alone.
Our church spent a month meandering our way through the concept and experience of worship. We contemplated worship as a reflection of our whole person expressed beyond just Sunday morning gatherings. Worship being more than 5 songs before a church sermon, or just the church service itself, but rather a life devoted to declaring the reign of God in our entire network.
That’s a challenge.
For some reason our church worship times are almost exclusively dependent on musical expressions. In fact, our music/worship drives the very culture and essence of our formal gatherings. Not only that, our music is also almost exclusively happy and joyful. That would be acceptable if life was always happy and joyful.
But it’s not. Sometimes we encounter trials. For many the ‘sometimes’ is ‘all the time’. Luckily the narrative of the Bible is extensively inclusive for a variety of emotions including various laments, cries of sorrow, and even anger, all justifiably directed at God.
Our difficulty is ‘worshipping’ through these trials.
One of the rhythm pieces of our church includes the continuous re-telling of our role in God’s unfolding mission in our world to usher in his Kingdom and right wrongs. Of course, when we put it this way it makes it sound we’re responsible for the “ushering” part. In the words of NT Wright, God’s reign is past, present, and future. It is total, utter, and complete. God cannot reign anymore than he is right now.
We get a chance to preview that reign in our spaces. In another sense, in the words of missiologist David Bosch, we have a role as participants in the mission of God to be a sent people, “alerting all to the universal reign of God through Christ.”
God’s followers since the very beginning have had the same task. We alert in two ways: by announcement (what we tell), and demonstration (what we do).
This requires a certain reorientation of our lives. Even if we do ‘reorient’ towards a role of ‘alerting’ it’s still no easy task. Life tends to stand in the way.
There’s a story in the Old Testament book called Isaiah. In Isaiah 52:7-12 the Israelites are living in exile as captives in Babylon (timeframe is about 2600 years ago). They are prisoners in a foreign land, live under a foreign king, and encounter the daily reminders of foreign oppression and culture.
Imagine how hard it would’ve been to ‘declare’ and ‘demonstrate’.
Yet in their way they did. In verses the messenger brings hope with just the spring in his step down the mountainside. The message he brings holds even greater hope, a ‘good news‘, reinterpreted in the New Testament as ‘the gospel’ (Ro .10:15; Eph 2:17, 6:15), of peace and salvation–fundamental reflections of God’s present reign (that was and is utter, total, and complete).
“Your God reigns!” declares messenger despite the context of the Israelites, a reality that was true no matter the evidence to the contrary. The essence of the mission of Israel remained–alerting others to God’s reign!
The difference today is that when we worship together and alone we continue declaring and demonstrating. Followers of Jesus do so under His new covenant, continuing the daily meander, struggle, and triumph of our God reigns.