Sunday, April 27, 2008

Making Sense of Worship

[This post is courtesy of my beautiful wife, Linda]

A few nights ago I awakened at 3:30am and found that Chris was not next to me. I groaned and pulled myself out of bed to rescue my husband from the Taskmaster, again. He had said he would only work until one, and here it was more than two hours later. As I trudged down the hall, my resentment grew. Clearly, I’d have to cover his take-Melody-to-school shift early in the morning, even though he’s supposed to drop off and I’m supposed to pick up. Sitting in that line twice in one day was definitely too much.

After assurances from Chris that he was “just about done,” and his insistence that the deadline couldn’t wait, I crawled back to bed. Of course I couldn’t really sleep until he came in at about four, which gave me ample opportunity to stew…and develop some major crabbiness.

As expected, the morning found me waiting in the parent line with time to think. And repent. I had been focusing on my frustration, and hadn’t even really thought about the pressure that Chris must be under at work. By the time I got back, I had decided to fix him a really nice breakfast and to apologize. Fresh fruit, made-from-scratch bran muffins, eggs, and coffee—everything turned out perfectly. Chris basically never gets a hot breakfast because of the mad rush to get out the door, but this morning he chose to go in a bit late (after all, he’d worked nearly all night!), and we ended up having a very nice time together. Despite having had poor sleep the night before, I was in a pretty good mood all day.

Maybe you’re wondering what my story has to do with worship. You see, I’m at the place in my life where I’ve had to simplify my idea of what worship is really all about. I’ve been in a pretty fair number of situations, and I’ve seen many kinds of worship. When I was in the Catholic church I thought the essence of worship was piety, the strength of tradition, and the beauty of a solemn and meaningful liturgy. Then my Catholic mother became interested in the charismatic movement, and I saw worship full of ecstatic experiences in the Holy Spirit—very joyful and emotional. When Chris and I lived for a while in a Muslim country, we saw worship that took the form of zeal in a creed and way of life that was literally shouted from the rooftops of mosques five times a day. After that we joined Vineyard Christian Fellowship, where worship was all about intimacy, surrender and commissioning to do the works of the Father, such as healing and deliverance. I was even Presbyterian for a short while, where worship was tied with in-depth study and reverence for the Word of God. All of these expressions taught me many valuable things, but I also experienced the pain of witnessing some that fell prey to the danger of prideful legalism, overemphasis on the power of spiritual gifts or self-focused emotionalism. Many were confused or hurt by division between denominations. There had to be a simpler way to understand worship, some common ground, and a way to make sense of it all.

I’ve come to realize that underneath it all there is only one thing that really matters. Worship is simply this: drawing near to touch the heart of my God with the beauty only I can give. It is turning from my selfishness to bring something precious to my beloved – like a warm muffin and gourmet coffee for my husband after a long night of toil and struggle. Like a song of thanksgiving that brings comfort and pleasure to a God who continually suffers grief over many lost souls.

The day that I sat in the parent line twice for Chris bloomed with gorgeous springtime weather. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and as I took my usual afternoon walk it seemed as that the wildflowers had sprung up overnight. It nearly took my breath away. All of this beauty—like a lover’s gift of a dozen red roses—for me, for us. God’s mercy is amazing: His compassion that brings redemption, the power of the Holy Spirit that crowns us with the beauty of loving-kindness and gives us a holy passion as majestic as the eagle. He clothes us with the shining splendor of His righteousness. He invites us into His glorious presence, and there fills us to overflowing with His joy and peace.

Romans 12:1, paraphrased, says this: “I beg you, brothers and sisters, to open your eyes to God’s unfathomable mercy. Let it inspire you to present yourselves as a sacrifice on God’s altar. Live your lives in such a way as to make sure that your sacrifice is holy and acceptable to God. This is true worship and a fitting response to His great kindness to you.”

It just makes sense.


grob said...

You've totally abandoned Jesus' gift to you - His body, blood, sould and divinity in the Eucharist. Don't you miss it?

Chris Falter said...

@grob - Actually, Linda and I have not abandoned the Lord's gift of Himself in the Eucharist. We continue to believe in the Real Presence whenever we celebrate the Lord's Table in our church.

Thanks for following the blog. I would guess that you are from the Roman Catholic tradition?