Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Worship: Express Yourself

We have been following a map, though I haven't mentioned it yet, while exploring the subject of worship. Our journey has brought us through Pause, Repent, Arise, Inhale, Sing, and ends with this article concerning Express. In discovering how we might be those worshippers that God seeks, hopefully, we've learned how to P-R-A-I-S-E (at least anagrammatically) in the process.
Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.         Psalm 149:1-4 (NIV)
Upon finding ourselves in the presence of God, accepted, there builds within us something that wants to be let out. It's a feeling that wells up, but which isn't really what it is until it gets out. If it is squelched, hindered, or hidden, it doesn't get to be what it really is. For it to be before God what it is meant to be, what it should be, it needs to be expressed (maybe Charles Wright was on to something back in 1970).

The text above gives us a little direction in letting that something out--in expressing ourselves in worship. Suffice it to say, worship is more than a mere mental exercise; our bodies and our voices must be engaged as well. All we are as people should be brought to bear upon expressing worship. If we take these pointers to heart, and embrace their practice, we'll be well on our way to truly praising the Lord.

Picking up on a point from the last article, something new is called for when we worship. The inference in the word "new" is something spontaneous, something that hasn't been established before. Biblical worship will express something new, something spontaneous. If all that we do in our attempt to worship is the tried and true, we may look nice or sound great, but will not actually cross the threshold of worship (so much for liturgy and precisely planned worship orders!).

Being aware of our acceptance in the presence of God is not something that can be carried without emotion. Relief and gratitude are the seeds of gladness and joy. Worship is not an austere endeavor stiffened in structure, but is a fountain of joy, splashing, gushing, getting everything it touches wet and messy. Worship should express the joy and gladness of being at one with God and will of necessity be emotionally expressive.

And there is more to musically accompanied praise than just singing. We, ourselves, can be instruments, as well as playing instruments or having instruments played. We dance, play timbrils and harps (strings), and sing. As long as I am a pastor, any flock I shepherd will be a place that welcomes expressions of musical participation from the congregation: the folk will be welcome to break out in dance, be encouraged to clap and shake a tambourine, or even let out a shout. The only underlying principle is that is must be toward God, other than that, folk should express themselves in worship.

Though such a thing may seem disorderly to some folk's way of thinking, this is not fleshly or worldly, nor out of place--it's scriptural. It may be noisy and emotional, and even a bit messy, but it is exactly what God is looking for. History cannot tell us how to worship, only the scriptures and the Holy Spirit can. If our practice gives mere lip service to what the scripture says and the Spirit stirs, then our practice isn't worth the effort it takes, even if we've done it that way for thousands of years.

There is, in fact, a "why" to all these going-ons. It is because we are accepted favorably in God's presence--we are approved, even delighted in by God. After all, we are not the ones setting the example here, God is! There is joy in the presence of angels (meaning God, not the angels, is filled with joy over repentant sinners).

If God is filled with joy, singing over the redeemed, how can they not reflect back that same sentiment toward him? God is get-off-your-seat-and-dance-happy over bringing us forgiven into his presence, why would we be any less? Things rub off on us in the presence of God. Expressive praise of the sort we've been talking about is one of those things.