Worship Lite

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

I have a suspicion there is more to worship than most of us experience. Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, wrote: “Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God—it whets our appetite” [1]; at least it should. One writer suggested two items are missing from our pews: seatbelts and crash helmets. Worship should be exciting and inspiring. We are coming into the very presence of the Almighty! Worship is to glorify God and transform the worshiper, but so often, it is so-so. Why is that?

I believe most of the fault is with us when we come into His presence unprepared. Perhaps the pace of life is too fast. We jump into the car, and suddenly we are there at the appointed hour. So how can we switch from racing around the house gathering children, Bibles, and casseroles for the potluck to opening our hearts in confession and praise? I envy the Jews of the First Century. To go up to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple required planning. It wasn’t just something that happened but would often require days of walking with fellow pilgrims. Perhaps we would sing the Psalms of Ascent as we marched toward the Holy City. When we finally arrived, we would climb the steps carefully and pass through an underground passageway to enter the courtyard of the Temple. (The stairs were intentionally made in different widths and heights to cause people to think about each step and what they were doing.)

One of the significant differences brought about by the new covenant was transferring the place of worship from a great temple in Jerusalem into the temple of our hearts. We should prepare our hearts for worship, but how?

First, by not rushing. The Brethren in England have a table in the foyer of their churches. Worshipers leave their watches there. Worship is timeless.

Second, by recognizing what we are doing. For example, in talking about the Lord’s Supper, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28 – 29). 

Does it seem like we are afraid of silence in worship? The one thing radio announcers fear most is “dead air.” We always keep talking, playing music, and filling the airwaves with sound. It shouldn’t be that way in worship. The psalmist said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Third, by seeking the blessing. The songs are to teach us (Colossians 3:16). What have you learned? The sermon is to build us up in our holy faith. That requires us to listen and apply what we learn. Prayer is an active process. We don’t just listen; we confess, ask, thank, and adore the Lord in prayer.

Alright. Fasten your seatbelt and put on your helmet! We are setting aside worship lite for the real thing!

  [1] Peterson, E. H. (2019). A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Commemorative Edition, p. 50). IVP Books: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press

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