Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is Worship a Fancy or a Feeling?

Psalm 33:1–3 (NKJV)
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

One of the great lessons of life is Solomon’s adage, “All hard work brings a profit but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Prov. 14:23). It is easy to talk about achieving something; but actually to achieve that thing requires determination and hard work. As the editors of the Geneva Bible wrote: “All things are difficult that are excellent and fair.”

Consider the skilled musician. I don’t play an instrument – although I love music. Often I close my eyes while listening to Archangelo Corelli’s Concerti Grossi and imagine myself playing the violin. I imagine how proficient I would be. But my imaginings are just that. I’m not a skilled musician because I have not invested the time and energy into learning that would be necessary to be one.

The same principle applies to the skilled athlete. While native talent is an important starting point, the one who truly succeeds in a sport is the one who practices, who pushes himself so that he may acquire increasing skill and proficiency. I might imagine myself hitting 100 free throws in a row; but each time I’m on the court I’m lucky to hit seven out of ten. Why? Because I don’t practice.

This principle applies in most every area of life, including relationships. Consider a solid marriage. Marriages start with the swearing of an oath; they continue as a couple learns to love and sacrifice and forgive. Successful marriages – marriages in which spouses learn to communicate well, forgive well, make love well, and parent well - require hard work, practice, and persistence. They don’t just happen. The love that makes marriages work is elbow-grease love.

This same principle applies in worship. Much has been written and said regarding the “worship wars” in the modern church. What should be the nature of our worship? Many, in an attempt to be seeker sensitive, have striven to make worship easier; to use music that makes visitors comfortable; to limit the amount of theological depth in lyrics to make songs more digestible. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we have not jumped on that bandwagon. We haven’t accommodated ourselves to this musical trend. We sing psalms and hymns; we try to sing in harmony; we use printed books. This proves very challenging for many who visit our congregation; and I can certainly symphathize with the challenge. Perhaps it has been challenging for you.

But here’s the question: should we expect the worship of God to come easily? Skill in music comes only with practice; skill in sports comes only with practice; skill in marriage comes only with practice; should we expect anything different of worship? The idea that worship should just come naturally when we’ve lived lives alienated from God is absurd. When God rescues us He does not immediately make us skilled worshipers; rather, He so touches our hearts so that we, for the first time, desire to become skilled worshipers.

Is worship difficult for you? Is it challenging for you to learn to sing the psalms and hymns? Challenging to learn to sing in harmony? Challenging to understand what those lyrics mean at times? Then keep working at it. Remember, all things are difficult which are excellent and fair.

So reminded that we are often lazy in our pursuit of the Almighty and that we treat His worship less seriously than the acquisition of musical, physical, or relational skill, let us confess our slothfulness to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel as we do so.