Our friend and amazing bro Dr. Soong-Chan Rah has been bringing deep and rocking messages this Advent at Wilson Abbey from the book of Isaiah and in part with regard to Lamentations. Being a blues writer/singer/player I have long connected with the need for humans in a broken world to be able to, shall I say, “rightly lament”.
Make no mistake- there is a very real hope in the pain, suffering and tears of a follower of Jesus Christ.
That biblical book is not an easy read, but it’s a worth the effort.
Soong-Chan has himself written an excellent book on this which offers insights I think deeply significant for our time: http://tinyurl.com/h7t2d6t
It’s a wonder it has taken so long for so many in the Church (larger proclaimed body of Christians) to “get it” re. the fact of suffering so obvious over one’s life span and of course, human history.
So what does all this have to do with worship? You attend such gatherings and perhaps are reading this very blog to get UPlifted, right?!!
Who only rejoices with those who rejoice and denies weeping with those who weep? The immature. The self-obsessed. The cold-hearted or at least very self-focused. On the gracious end of the equation, those so wounded themselves they have no strength to enter into suffering with others due to the depth of their own.
Our hope is in God, not in His ability nor our demand that He performs for us X, Y or Z. And THAT dear reader, is my point. All too often we show up to see God show up and when He doesn’t “live up to our expectations” in a “worship moment” we lose heart and often jump ship. Some move to a different gathering, a different place, a different something and I posit we do so to get something as opposed to recognize and focus on SomeONE. It’s still about US and not HIM. Our focus is inward, not outward and upward and Godward.
HIS worth-ship, HIS honor, HIS very Person (Father/Son/Spirit is often NOOOOOTTTTTT what we “go for”, “show up for” when we supposedly worship.
All too often we’re looking in a mirror rather than looking deeply into the Person we are supposedly coming to visit with in a more focused, exact way. We seek contact for fulfillment rather than explore the depths of the God Who made us and who made us for Himself.
If you’ve read this far some of you may be thinking “Wow, what a curmudgeon, what a kill-joy, there is GREAT pleasure in experiencing the presence (manifest) of God dude! Come ON, it’s CHRISTMAS bro!!” Ha, yes indeed, I get your thinking and you’re not completely wrong except for one thing: there is still no room in the inn when our focus is self.
Ponder this brief biblical lyric:
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27.4)
In Soong-Chan’s message yesterday one of the points that leapt out at me was his comment about worship of God for Himself, His character, Who HE IS and not seeking after associated “fireworks”, feelings or even answers to prayer in the worship in each and every setting. I SO agree and have thought exactly the same for decades.
Further, if we will not worship God, truly focus on God FOR HIMSELF, how will we ever notice the pains and hurts of those around us and begin to sacrificially serve them? Just as mature worship is not about us, neither is serving others -especially when we feel they are less deserving of service than we are.
If we cannot rejoice in GOD (see “Mary’s song”, Luke chapter one) AND truly enter in to the needs and indeed, laments of the poor, suffering, “least of these” as Jesus calls them in Matthew 25, I dare say we do not yet worship as we ought. In fact I would say we think, sing, perhaps even pray… show up in an echo chamber, not a meeting with the God of the Bible.
Advent is all about Him entering our world that we might enter His. Entering His means focusing on Him and others. In part it means as He focuses on us and those around us, we must grow to focus on Him and those around us.
If this is disconnected from worship it is my deep conviction we are less than mature worshippers. In fact I would say we are not participants with Him in authentic worship, but something else and something less.
As I myself fully enjoy the lights, songs, children, desserts, trees and trim, candles and all else I think of a friend I have never directly met who sits in a prison. His wife and children are estranged from him. He came to a genuine faith, but will likely serve several more years. The large church he attended is vibrant and blessed… and he received but two Christmas cards last year as he sat in his cell over Christmas.
God help us ENJOY Jesus as well as share that joy and yes, even the tears of those in need this Christmas and beyond!
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn