Worship: Participation

Last week we read about Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple in chapter 6. Isaiah obviously heard God’s call and opened his heart to whatever God wanted to tell him. Could it be that at times we hear God’s call and desire the feeling but are not open to whatever God might have to say to us? We want the ecstasy but not the responsibility. Observe where Isaiah went with the conversation.

After he was awed by the realization that he was truly in God’s presence, he didn’t run away. Instead he immediately became aware of his own and his people’s sinfulness. “Woe is me!” and “I am ruined!” he said. Other translations are “I am undone” or “I am found out.” He repented of his personal sin and seemed to desire that his people would repent as well.

As his conscience-stricken cry, God heard his confession and granted forgiveness. The seraph took a coal from the altar; and by placing it on Isaiah’s mouth, his sins were removed, forgiven and, most importantly, forgotten.

When Isaiah met God and truly saw God face to face, all of his pretense and baggage were stripped away. If the worship is pure, in “spirit and in truth,” then we can’t help but follow Christ and accept whatever call God has for us; but the worship comes first. It calls us to see ourselves as God sees us. It illuminates our sinful condition to our own eyes and requires contrition and confession. At that point, God is faithful to forgive us. While God sees our sinful selves, God sees through eyes of love for God’s creation.

We do not have to go before a minister or priest to confess our sins, but perhaps we neglect the confessional portion of our relationship because it is not part of our routine. One of our prayers needs to be that God will reveal to us our sin so that we can confess and be forgiven. Otherwise, we create a warehouse of unrepented sin in our lives, and it becomes a barrier to the communion.

In Isaiah’s communing or conversation with God, God did not speak of it again. It was over. God moved to the question at hand: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (v. 8). The words were direct and dialogical. Who will go to this people of unclean lips, God asked, and Isaiah stepped up without any questions (yet) as he said, “Here am I; send me!” (v. 9).

Notice that Isaiah committed to the task without reading the job description. God desires our availability more than our ability.

When I was a senior in high school at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston Salem, our boys’ Sunday school class had a new teacher. Clint Ashburn arrived on the first day of the new church year, and off we went into our small room. We didn’t know Clint. He had preschool and young children. Our paths had not crossed at church, but he was in his place and began getting to know us. He planned an afternoon football game at one of the city parks. We met some of the local guys we didn’t know who challenged the Sunday school boys to a scrimmage. I have to mention that we won. Over the next weeks, Clint was faithful to be in place and prepared. One Sunday we were unfocused and distracted. Clint stopped the lesson, looked at us with some pain in his eyes and said “Guys, I’m struggling here.” We were never disrespectful to him again. Something clicked, and we knew he was teaching us because he cared for us and he had answered a call to serve. I’m not sure Clint knew what he was getting into when he said “Here am I; send me,” but I know he taught the class for several years and was faithful to his call.

“As with everything else in worship, our act of surrender to God is a response to the Word of God.” James 1:21-25 and Romans 12:1 both speak of God’s Word and our response and responsibility.

James mentions the “word” planted in us, showing us once again the importance of God’s Word. In Romans, Paul uses the phrase “living sacrifice” which reminds us that our decision to follow is not just a one-time event but a continual giving of ourselves. One of my seminary professors once said “The trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off of the altar.” We have a responsibility to crawl back up there, too.

Isaiah did ultimately ask about the task for which he volunteered. His question of “How long?” (v. 11) may have meant that he knew these people. It was as if he had an idea they might not listen. God’s response was daunting: “Until the cities lie in ruins….”(v. 12, NIV).  Isaiah had his task, and he did not shirk his responsibility.

God acts and, in acknowledgement of God, we react:

I hope in the coming weeks you will experience this kind of true worship as a participant. Worship is not a spectator sport where you watch the action and admire those on the field. Worship is a way of life as you are engaged by communing with God either as a participant in a service of corporate worship or in a time of personal communion with the God who created and loves you.


George Barna, et al., Experience God in Worship (Loveland, Colorado: Group Publishing, 2000), 104, 113.

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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