The Heart of Worship
The nearly one hundred-year-old parishioner’s pointer finger was so close to my face I could feel the air displacement as he made each point loudly. “This is not church! This is noise! If this is what you are planning to do to our church, it will die! I won’t have it!”
We had moved the community-wide Good Friday noon service to the evening. For years, the noon service had dwindled to just a few dozen. Even most of the pastors stopped participating. So, we changed the time, added some contemporary music to the traditional organ and had over 150 in attendance! The next year we outgrew the sanctuary and had to relocate.
I get preference. That opinionated centenarian was saying modern music was not worship, but what he meant was that it was not his preferred worship music.
This Sunday, we will study 2 Samuel 6 and the story of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David does so with great fanfare: dancing, singing, stringed instruments, drums, cymbals, and animal sacrifice. Often this passage is quoted in traditional churches that are introducing contemporary music styles as a way to support the change. It just so happens we are going to have a band and modern music in worship this Sunday, but this isn’t an article justifying a change of music styles. I want this to be an article that calls us to the heart of worship.
Worship is more than rites (actions, behaviors, practices). Worship is more than music, liturgy, dancing, or instrumentation. Worship is an outflow of the heart. Worship is a response to God’s grace in our lives. Worship is adoration and praise and thanksgiving and that can look and sound so many different ways depending on the response.
You see God isn’t interested in organ music, or guitar music. God doesn’t care about pews, chairs, steeples, or laser light shows. God desires the human heart. Both Jesus and Isaiah agree on this point: “You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me.'” Matthew 15:7-9 NRSV
Worship is how we offer our hearts back to God. This keeps God at the center of our lives. Worship keeps us humble and attune to God’s activity in our lives. Worship is a powerful way for God’s heart to connect with ours.
There is a worship song that speaks about the Heart of Worship.
A key lyric is:
“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart”
Worship is important, if not crucial for the life of the faithful. But if it becomes about preference over an outpouring of God’s grace in our lives and back to God, our worship becomes a source of idolatry or an end unto itself. The heart of worship puts God at the center and God’s grace flows out in a variety of styles and gifts, each unique to the gathered worshipping body.
I hope you’ll join in worship, not just this Sunday, but every day of your life. Letting God’s grace flow in praise and thanksgiving back to God from the depths of your heart.