Been a while since I posted here, but things have been crazy. Now I am ready to start writing again and I have a lot to say.
Since I last posted, I have applied and been accepted into graduate school at Cleveland State University. There I am studying to be a Special Education teacher with emphasis in Moderate to Intensive specialization. I am no longer a pastor/preacher in a local church. I am unemployed. I have no church home. This excerpt, from a longer post at my personal blog, concerns worship. It is based on what I learned as I worshiped with and Anglican church on August 2, 2009.
I will have much more to say. I’m glad Relevant Christian is still here for me to post to. Stop back and visit soon. Blessings. Jerry.
Do you know what it is like to be killed in worship? Do you know what it is like to have the Word of God cut you to the heart? Do you know what it is like to hear the Word of God declared, proclaimed, and announced and find yourself at the sharp end of a sword?
I know what the Lord is up to, I think. I think the Lord is leading me back to himself, back to the place where I can worship again. But he is leading in a way that only He can lead. I can’t get there on my own because I do not know the way. I’m like Frodo trying to find Mordor: I’m willing to go, but I do not know the way. Thankfully, the Lord orders our steps. Thankfully, he is not willing that we stay out in the desert place. Thankfully, the Lord pitches His tents in Sheol and finds us there. When we arrive, He is already there, waiting, watching, hoping, and loving–loving us back to health and worship. He resurrects us!
One of the last songs my band played on my last Sunday at the church was a song called ‘Floodgate’.
“In the desert my soul waits. For a drop of heaven’s rain. I’m thirsty for you. River of the springs of life, You alone can satisfy. I’m thirsty for you. Living Water, Pour down, Drench this desert, I need you now.”
“Open up the Floodgate, send down your waterfall. Let Your might Spirit flow, down to the desert plains below. Open up the Floodgate. Send down Your waterfall.”
In many ways, this is what worship should be: A place where God’s Holy Spirit is let loose and people humbled by the Spirit, refreshed by the prayer, forgiven by Christ, submitted to the Word are strengthened to go out and…and…wreck it all over again.
Isn’t that what grace is? Isn’t that what grace is about? We don’t worship because we have something to offer God–as if He needs anything we have to offer. We worship because we need something–we need Grace, we need forgiveness, we need mercy, we need love, we need his invitation to come to the table He has prepared. We silly Christians have the expectation that everyone, including the preacher, comes to church on Sunday morning perfect and ready, willing and able to perform an act of worship for the Lord. It’s our duty, after all. It is church to go and meet at the appointed hour and offer something to God—be it a song, a dollar, or a sermon. But ironically, that’s not how the Lord sees it at all.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Or, if you prefer New Testament lingo,
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31)
You know this don’t you? Worship is not something we offer to God—how can we worship God?! All we offer is faltering lips and stammering tongues, broken and damaged by life and the world. Rather, it is something we are invited in to by God himself. We come thinking we are going to bless Him and instead what ends up happening is that He blesses us, invites us around the table, baptizes us with His Holy Spirit, feeds us with His Word, pronounces us forgiven, and joins our hearts in fellowship!
If worship is something we are merely doing, something we do because we think we have something to give God, I suspect it is something closer to idolatry we are practicing. If we show up at worship full of life and energy, filled with all sorts of humanity, strong and mighty—then maybe we are not ready to worship at all. If we show up thinking that that is religion, that that is Christianity, that that is our pilgrimage–we we really have no idea what we are engaged in at all. But if we show up, if we can, limping in, on crutches, slouched over, beaten, broken, tired, strung out, hung-over from a week of busy and doing—completely undone—then, perhaps we are ready to worship because, then, when we are empty, there is room for God to be, to fill, and replenish. There is room for God to minister to us in His Spirit. Isn’t that what Jesus does? He came to serve, not be served. As if we can; as if that stopped when he ascended into heaven!
I see what is happening. The last couple of weeks I have been worshiping with broken, empty, undone people. And Christ has showed up, almost unannounced because the people didn’t consider themselves worthy of His presence.
I see what is happening. The emptying takes a lot longer when we have so much baggage, but it is not until we are completely empty that God can begin investing in us Himself.
And that is the way worship ought to be. That’s the way church ought to be.