When I go through this process, there are times when reading Scripture has forced me to readjust some assumptions, but not this time. If anything, it has caused me to readjust my view on worship to one that is more strongly held. Worship should be our first response to God at all times. When we are confronted with the greatness and glory of God, the only thing that can be done is worship. If worship isn't our natural state, then perhaps we don't fully understand how truly great God is. I certainly don't live this out. Sadly, I know that I can go through a whole day and not worship my creator.
This is why weekly corporate worship is so important. It is a time we purposefully set aside to do what we are supposed to. We are to:
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the LORD in the
splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96:7-9, ESV)
I love Psalm 96. The entire song tells us to worship and praise God because of who he is and what he has done. I think this small section of Scripture tells us a lot about our worship of God and what should be happening at our corporate worship services. Notice that the first line does not tell us that the adults should be worshipping, but the families of the people of God. This is a family affair. If we truly think that God is so wonderful that our only response is to worship him, how can we deny our children this response. They belong in worship with us. Our children need to see us worshipping so that they can learn to worship as well. And, often we can end up learning to worship from them as well. We are to become like little children and follow Jesus. Children sometimes intuitively 'get' what adults don't. We need them in our worship services to remind us how to become like them before our God.
Psalm 96 also tells us to bring an offering with us when we come into God's gates. All through the Old Testament, this offering is a sacrifice. Back then it was an actual object or animal which was physically sacrificed on the altar. Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice with his life, so what is our sacrifice that we bring to God's gates today? I think it is our attitudes and behaviors. Somewhere along the line, it seems we have gotten a bit confused about the purpose of a worship service. Instead of being all about God, it has become all about us... a sort-of spiritual spa day where we enter tired and haggard and after an hour's time of peace and reflection come out rested and ready to face the week. No wonder people don't want their children in the service; who brings their children to the spa? But often our sacrifice as parents is to bring our children into our heavenly Father's presence. On some days, just getting everyone ready and to the church is our sacrifice for all the good that it seems to be doing. I believe that God delights in our efforts to introduce our children to himself, even if they seem a pathetic attempt on our part.
The sacrifice of our attitudes in worship doesn't begin and end with children, though. If the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves, we need to apply this in our worship services. Nothing can bring out strongly held opinions like changes to a worship service... wrong music, wrong music style, prayers too long, prayers too short, sermon too long, sermon too short, sermon too topical and folksy, sermon too exegetical and academic, etc, etc. I am a big offender here as well. Just ask my husband what my immediate action is when a hymn's words have been changed from what I'm used to. But what if each of these things that so irk us as individuals speak mightily and have a lasting effect on our neighbor down the pew? If I think about it in these terms, I can sacrifice my own enjoyment for my brother or sister who is being spiritually fed. I like to imagine what would happen to the 'worship wars' if all of us started to actually obey Jesus' second greatest commandment.
Begin to think of worship as sacrifice. Sacrificing our own comfort and ease for the teaching and joy of others. This is a sacrifice pleasing to God and a true act of worship.