Formations 01.24.2021: The Works of God’s Hands

Revelation 4

The writer of Revelation, whom we know was a man named John, gives a glorious depiction of heavenly worship in chapter 4. The images are strange to us—jasper and carnelian, an emerald-like rainbow, twenty-four thrones with elders wearing robes and crowns, lightning and thunder, torches, a crystal sea, and four very odd-looking living creatures. The magnificence of it all is meant to portray the might, glory, and awesomeness of the Lord God.

When I was an undergraduate at Mercer University, my boyfriend took a class called “World Religions” with Dr. Walter Shurden. One of the requirements of the class was to attend worship services of various denominations and faiths. As a small-town girl who grew up in a moderate Baptist church, I had no idea what I was getting into when I accompanied my boyfriend to Mass at the beautiful St. Joseph Catholic Church in downtown Macon, Georgia.

A bowl of holy water stood on an ornate stand at the back of the sanctuary. Cushioned kneeling benches lined each row of pews. Small books were tucked into slats on the pew backs. Gorgeous stained-glass windows adorned every wall, and beneath each one, a small alcove held a marble statue of a saint. The ceiling seemed to touch the sky. When the choir began to sing, their voices echoed off the marble and sounded throughout the massive space. I had no idea when to kneel or stand, when to speak or listen, or how to sing the songs that were printed with words but no music notes.

The worship service was strange to me. And yet every aspect of the church portrayed the might, glory, and awesomeness of the Lord God. I felt the people’s respect for the One they worshiped. It was evident as they dipped their fingers in the holy water, made the sign of the cross, repeated words they knew by heart, took Communion with a hushed reverence, and knelt and stood at various times during the service.

I think, if those Catholics had entered the country church where I grew up, they would have seen and heard things that were strange to them as well: the big fat hymnals full of music notes and lyrics, the clanging piano accompanying our boisterous singing, the swaying of our choir as they presented the special music, the lengthy call for prayer requests that were shouted out by members of the congregation, the laughter all throughout the sermon. But I’d like to think that they would have seen the might, glory, and awesomeness of the Lord God in that country church just as I saw it in their hallowed hall.

We can worship God anywhere and anytime. Thanks be to God!

Discussion

• What kinds of worship services have you attended? Which ones helped you feel closest to God?
• If you grew up in a particular faith denomination, are you still a part of it today, or did you choose a difference one as you grew up?
• What does your faith denomination mean to you? How does your congregation worship God?
• We may think the worship service in Revelation 4 is strange, just like services in other denominations can seem strange. But what can John’s words teach us about the worship of God?
• How can we truly worship God anywhere and anytime?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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