The centrality of God in worship and praise
Then a cloud appears and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. (Mark 9:7-8)
By Rev. Darryl R. Williams
It is difficult to keep God central in our worship services being that the context in which we worship is a culture that is increasingly narcissistic and self-indulged.
Though we talk about worshipping and praising God our language often tells another story.
For example, some of our television evangelist seem to preach a message that emphasizes the role of our efforts in achieving the abundant life rather than the finished work of Jesus Christ.
In other words, the sermons are more humanistic than the theocentric.
More subtlety, sometimes our songs are more about us than it is the adoration of God.
And lastly, we are sometimes guilty of going to church only “to get a blessing”.
As noble as that sounds it still makes “us” the center of the worship experience.
The Transfiguration story tells us authentic worship is worship where Jesus is the one and only focus.
They saw Moses who represented the law, they saw Elijah who represented the prophets, and they saw Jesus who was the fulfillment of the two.
Peter in his eagerness wanted to put up three shelters and stay a little while.
In the end Peter, James and John saw no one except Jesus.
Not only was this an affirmation of the ministry of Jesus as the fulfillment of the other two, but it was a moment that taught Jesus had no peers when it came to whom worship is due.
It is Jesus alone!
When we elevate anything or anyone over God, it ceases to be worship because worship is adoration of God – alone!
When we elevate the order of worship over God as the object of it (that’s why we have worship wars, form takes precedence over the object), when we come to raise money, or see friends, when it’s the personality of leader that draws us, we are in church, but it is not worship.
David knew the purpose of the temple was to give praise and adoration to God.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: That I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)
Genuine worship and praise is always the byproduct of the truth of God being revealed in the worship experience.
That’s one reason why I love the Psalms.
Many of them express some aspects about God, and the concomitant result was praise.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Surely you have placed them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever.
He saw the justice and fairness of God and it resulted in praise.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all of my fears.
Those who looked to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:4, 5, 8).
The delivering power of God is revealed to him and it resulted in praise!
Each time a truth about God is revealed it always results in worship and praise.
My very favorite example is Paul in the book of Romans.
After spending a considerable amount of time in his letter to the Romans talking about the grace of God and His love for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, at the end of chapter 11 He breaks out in a doxology:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his Counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from Him and through him and for him are all things.
To Him be glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33 Chapter 11 Verses 33-36
Again, a truth about God is revealed through Christ and it results in praise and worship.
So the task of the worship leader or pastor is not to try to “whip the crowd up”.
To do so is an unconscious admission that we haven’t done a good job in revealing the character of God in worship experience.
If God is seen for who He is they will be sufficiently “whipped up”.
Feelings and emotions have very subtlety taken center stage in some modern worship, removing God from that place.
I am not suggesting that we should be the “frozen chosen”; however, when trying to generate a feeling is an end in itself, we like the larger culture, have made our feelings an idol – without even knowing it! Worship and Praise is dependent upon coming to a renewed or even new understanding of God.
As a result we give God something – we love Him with our entire mind, heart and our soul; and yes, our resources as well.
When we remain blind to the multiple dimensions of God, it is no wonder we feel obligated to entertain; that remains the only way we can create a pseudo atmosphere of praise and worship.
True worshippers understand praise is giving to a God who has given so much to us; pseudo worshippers only have the mindset of what I can get. It is consumer Christianity.
Psalm 136:4-12 is an example of worshippers seeing many aspects of God, specifically His creative power and His heroics in delivering them from Egypt and appropriately responding with lively and authentic praise.
To Him alone who does great wonders, His love endures forever. Who by understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
Who made the great lights – His love endures forever.
The sun that governs the day, His love endures forever.
The moon and stars that govern the night; His love endures forever.
To Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever.
And brought Israel our from among them His love endures forever With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.
Rev. Darryl R. Williams
St Mark AME Church
Candidate for Bishop, 2016
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