Sunday, March 21, 2010

Worship As Prelude to Liberation

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
~ Bob Dylan

It is too easy to take for granted the privilege we have to gather on any day we want, in pretty much any place we want, for as long as we want, to worship God. These days not even 30% of Americans gather with a church for worship of the Lord. Maybe when worship is so easy to attend, and maybe when most services of worship are boring, or maybe when there are so many more relaxing things to do on a Sunday morning...we miss the subtle and subversive power of worship.

We're in the middle of the Lenten season, a period of forty days traditionally observed to prepare for worship of the Resurrected Christ on Easter morning. This season is about reflection, about repentance, about introspection and anticipation. Lenten is the "leanest" time of the year, that period in centuries past when people stretched their food supplies and prayed to God they wouldn't starve. Nowadays we struggle just to skip a meal. I guess worship and dinner come too easy to us now.

During Lent we also remember the story of the Exodus, of how God liberated the Israelites from the cruel slavery of their Egyptian taskmasters. They cried out to their God, and He heard them, saw them in their captivity, and set to work to set them free. God called Moses, and then gave him a message for Pharaoh: Let my people go that they might worship me in the wilderness.

Worship was the goal of liberation. God aimed to set his people free from the slave-cities so that they could worship Him in the wilderness. Worship was also the means of freedom - inviting the Israel-slaves to worship YHWH subverted the authority of the Great Taskmaster: Pharaoh. Worship at this point wasn't about song selection and chair arrangement, about dress code or liturgy choices - it was about freedom and justice and mercy. Worship was both a response of gratitude as well as prelude to liberation. Worship was the sign of readiness for slavery to cease as well as sign of trust that God would deliver them.

Do you cry out to God for help? Do you want the LORD to intervene in your affairs and rescue you? Worship of God is both your goal and your instrument for liberation. Your choice to worship God with your whole-heart prior to deliverance is both sign of readiness and of trust. But to be saved from your trials is not the end of the journey - you are drawn out of your troubles that you may worship God. If you have no desire to worship God, why would you ask him for help?

Do you hear the cries of those who seek help from God? Do you ever hear God calling out: Let my people go! Is your worship of the LORD about duty and pleasantries and entertainment? Or is your worship of the LORD a call to action, an invitation to liberty, an inspiration to be used to rescue and save and deliver? Your worship of the LORD was and is prelude to greater liberation - not only for you, but for those God puts in your life. Your gratitude to God and your submission to him position you to bring even more glory to Him: it is sign of your readiness to join His Great Rescue Work.

How would we know that you worship the LORD? How would you know when you have worshipped the LORD? Is it just when you bowed your knees? Is it when you raise your hands as you sing? Is it when you show up for worship with a smile? Or is it when you have agreed to submit your life once again totally to the rescue-work of Christ Jesus, readying yourself for another week of trusting and serving and celebrating God's promises and accomplishments. If only worship was an easier task...

1 comment:

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