Worship: Expectation

Some of my most profound worship experiences have been in large settings where those in attendance were inspired by and engaged in the event; and they were focused on the group’s communion with God. One of those encounters was at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly near Asheville, NC several years ago. It was the opening night of Music Week, and Spillman Hall was filled almost to capacity. The organ, piano, orchestra, and handbells were accompanying the congregation and choir in the opening hymn as over 2000 church musicians raised their voices in a medley of “All Hail the Power.” The arrangement included all three tunes from the hymnal, ending with the DIADEM.

As we concluded, there was a moment of awed silence, as if we could not believe we were all privileged to have participated in such a time of worship. Mark Blankenship, who was presiding over this service, ambled up to the podium to ask if anyone would mind if we sang the last stanza just one more time. There was immediate, unanimous consent; and in that moment we all knew it was going to be an amazing week.

The rest of the week truly was incredible, and it seemed that everyone at the conference came to each gathering with an air of expectancy. Perhaps that is one of the components of worship we sometimes miss. Do we arrive at our services each week expecting to see God face to face?

When Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, it was a high and holy event. Second Chronicles 3-4 tell about the materials, craftsmen, and building of the temple. The entire nation was invested in this effort, which culminated in the service of dedication, described in chapter 5.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) stated, “Worship is Transcendent Wonder.” Have you ever experienced a moment of worship when the world seemed to stop—a moment when there was nothing but awe, silence, and expectancy? It truly is glorious.

Each encounter should be a fresh encounter with God as we participate and engage in “spirit and truth,” so we should not try to replicate a service. However, there are some models we can draw from to help us make that connection with God and commune with God. “Overall, the Scriptures don’t seem to have as keen an interest in the ‘packaging’ of worship—that is, in its form and formats—as in its essence and its integrity,” but most writings about a model for worship begin with Isaiah 6. Many of the Old and New Testament worship experiences utilize this model as a form for worship gatherings. It is one of the clearest expressions of worship as form and function presented in Scripture. There is not enough room to look at the entire package, so we will explore just the first portion this week.

This model works because it is God centered. At no time does the focus become clouded. God initiated the encounter, and God keeps the communion or conversation moving forward. Being God-centered, it is “revelation rich and gives prime place to the Word of God.” As the Bible is our primary source of revelatory messages from God, this model holds true to that nature.

Additionally, this model is comprehensive regarding the responses to God. Beginning with adoration, it proceeds from praise to supplication.  By doing so, this passage exemplifies the dialogue between God and God’s creation. Our own dialogue with God should be in much the same manner.

This encounter begins with God making Godself known to the prophet.  God initiated the encounter, and Isaiah made himself available.  Isaiah’s and our processes are similar. God shows us that God is knowable. God shows us that it pleases God to be known and that God is constantly (not just on high and holy days) seeking to make Godself known to and by those who “hunger and thirst” after God.

This last statement should offer us peace, joy, and expectation.  Peace in that God, the creator of heaven and earth, the maker of all things, is accessible to us.  Joy because God delights in knowing us. And expectation as we eagerly wait to hear what God will tell us as we commune with God.

How often does God initiate a meeting with us and we fail to recognize God’s prodding? If Scripture is true (and I believe it to be), then God is always nudging us, trying to get our attention. Did you ever have a parent or teacher who was vying for your attention but you just didn’t notice? Did they give up or did they come up with more creative ways to help you notice them? My teachers usually had a way of reengaging with me. I know my parents always had ways of reclaiming my attention.

In our spiritual lives, God desires our attention. What things happen daily that keep us distracted from God?  Many times we are distracted with benign activities that are really neither good or bad in and of themselves, except that they draw our thoughts away from God.  Some of our tasks may even be good, showing love for God and our neighbors, but they can still be a distraction from what is best.  How can we adjust our routines so that God is the primary concern and is foremost in our hearts and minds?

When was the last time you had a deep desire for the presence of God?  What prompted this feeling? Were you able to commune with the Most High God and satisfy your thirst even as the deer at a brook quenches its thirst (Psalm 42:1-2)?

Source

George Barna, et al., Experience God in Worship (Loveland, Colorado: Group Publishing, 2000), 95-96.

Myron Douglas is minister of Education at First Baptist Church of Columbus, Georgia. Previously he has served FBC as Minister to Children and a sister church in Columbus as Minister of Music. He is a graduate of Wingate University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Myron sings with a professional chorus, Cantus Columbus. He and his wife Babbs reside in Columbus and have two grown children who live out of state.

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Comments

  1. HettieYoung says

    I feel I know you as I have visited Columbus First Church on several occasions with our children; Joe, Vickie, Katie and Annie Lynn Young.
    Thank you for this piece on worship of God. Here in Jasper because of the style of worship of our pastor and its cause of our losing some members, I am having difficulty worshipping on Sunday mornings. As with most events, I may be the one that needs to rethink what worship truly is. Thank you for providing food for thought for me.
    I co-teach from the Formations publications and come to Coracle to seek aid in the teaching.

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