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We value worship

April 19, 2011 2 Comments

by David Bode

A man once asked his pastor, “What are we going to do in heaven for all eternity?” The pastor explained that in heaven we join the angels worshipping God and praising Him forever. The man was not sure he liked the sound of that. “You mean, it’s going to be like being in church for millions and millions of years?” he asked. “Well, I wouldn’t put it that way,” the pastor answered, “but that probably is the best way we have to express it in this world.” The man was quiet for a moment, then said, “Boy, I sure hope they have padded pews!”

For many, the thought of worshipping God in His heavenly temple for all eternity sounds boring. We would rather think of heaven as life on a cruise ship or at an exclusive country club, where we spend our days in leisure activities like golfing or swimming. We want heaven to be the place where the banquets go on and on, followed by more parties and celebrations. But to think of worshipping God for all eternity—there must be more to heaven than going to church.

We often misunderstand what worship is. When we think about worship, we focus primarily on what we do in church Sunday morning. And we have some pretty strong ideas on what that worship should be like. When it’s more than an hour long, we start becoming uncomfortable. During Christmas or Holy Week, with back-to-back services over two or three days, we start thinking worship is taking up too much of our time. If we are honest, we’ll admit that worship is not a high priority in our busy lives. At best, we try to fit it into our schedules—occasionally—if time permits.

Even if a worship service follows all our personal rules, most of us would rather just not go to church

Today, fewer people see any need for worship. In many churches, the idea of coming together into the presence of the God to be fed and nourished through His grace, given to us in Word and Sacrament, has been replaced with a desire for entertainment. We only want music and performances that make us feel good. If we are going to listen to a sermon, it better be charismatic. Give us an inspirational message, something to make us feel good about ourselves. But even if a worship service follows all our personal rules, most of us would rather just not go to church; surely we can worship God just as well on our own?

The second core value of Lutheran Church–Canada focuses on worship. “We value worship,” our Vision Statement says, “in receiving the means of grace in the community of faith and personally and through our vocations.” In other words, we see life as worship. We live our lives worshipping the God who has called us as His own, who blesses us with the forgiveness and life we have in Christ, and who promises to take us one day into the glory of His kingdom. There, we will worship God forever. And whatever else we shall be, we shall certainly not be bored.

The Israelites in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time (about 458 BC) understood the importance of worship. Under the guidance of Nehemiah, the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after the exile in Babylon to begin rebuilding the city. Nehemiah gave up his position as cup-bearer to the King of Persia to share in the work of his people, and under his guidance the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Incredibly, the task was completed in 52 days—a feat Nehemiah attributes to God’s intervention. He says, “And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16 ESV).

The people of Israel also knew this was of God. So they gathered together and requested Ezra the priest to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses. The story is recorded in the eighth chapter of Nehemiah. Gathered together as one, the people stood from earliest morning light until noon—about 6 hours—as the Word was read and the Levites expounded upon that Word. What really stands out, though, is that “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

For six hours, the people listened carefully to the Word God had commanded Moses. They wanted to know what He had to say. In fact, the Israelites were the ones who asked for the Law to be read in the first place. Everyone who could understand, all the men and women, came to be fed by the Word of God. And this hunger was not satiated in one day. We read further in the book that “on the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:13 ESV). The Israelites, who had so often forgotten the benefit and blessing God’s Word brings, were again eager to hear that Word of Life.

As we gather in worship, God calls out to us, “Where are you?”

This is the first reason we value worship: through it, we as a community receive the blessings God gives in His Word and Sacraments. He calls us into His glorious presence to bless us with His grace.

A. W. Tozer put it this way: “God wants us to worship Him. He doesn’t need us, for He couldn’t be a self-sufficient God and need anything or anybody, but He wants us. When Adam sinned it was not he who cried, “God, where art Thou?” It was God who cried, “Adam, where art thou?”

As we gather in worship, God calls out to us, “Where are you?” He reaches out to us through His Word, inviting us to come before Him to receive the blessings that are ours because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He confronts us with the Law, reminding us that, like Adam, we are sinners. And although we deserve nothing from Him, He still invites us to come and be blessed in His Son, our Saviour. By His grace, we never leave worship without assurance of His love for us in Jesus Christ. There is a reason we call it the “divine” service; God serves us every time we gather.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read how Jesus went to Nazareth one day, “and as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read” (Luke 4:16 ESV). There, He read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). Jesus then told the people, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV). What a wonderful message! The Messiah has come to relieve their suffering. But instead of rejoicing in that promise, they turn against Jesus and even try to throw Him off a cliff.

When God tell us to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” the command is given for our benefit.

How do we respond as Christ fulfils that same promise for us, as He comes to us in His Word? He assures us we are made free from sin and punishment, because the Son of God gave Himself to suffer for us on the cross. He comforts us with the Lord’s favour, and promises us life through His resurrection.

We may already know it, but we need to hear the message over and over. Therefore we come together in worship. When God tell us to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” the command is given for our benefit. By coming to worship, we hear anew the peace, rest and strength God has planned for our lives.

Worship also happens in the way we live after leaving the church as we honour God in every aspect of life.

But while valuing worship includes the time we spend together in church, that’s not all there is. Worship is not simply part of the Christian life, it is the Christian life. The psalmist says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness” (Psalm 29:2 ESV). That happens when we set aside time weekly to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship God. But it also happens in the way we live after leaving the church as we honour God in every aspect of life.

On this subject, the apostle Paul speaks as clearly today as he did to the Roman Christians: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,” he writes, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

Luther often spoke of this aspect of worship under the theme of vocation. When parents care for their children, they worship the Lord. As the baker prepares bread, he is serving the Lord as he works for the good of his neighbour. When any of us go about our various roles as parents or children, husband or wife, worker or employer, student or teacher, we are worshipping God.

Worship is who we are as people of God

This then is the worship we value: a worship that brings us humbly before God to hear His Word and be blessed by His grace, but which also shows itself throughout all we do in life. As Ezra and Nehemiah reminded the people, we find real joy in worship. “Go your way,” they told the Israelites, “Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Worship is a celebration.

As communities of faith in Lutheran Church–Canada we praise and worship the God of our salvation, being fed and nourished through His means of grace: His Word and Sacraments. And we also worship in our lives as we live in Him who is our life and salvation.

This worship is never boring—it is what makes life worth living. Worship is who we are as people of God: those bought, redeemed and called into God’s kingdom through His Son. In response to such love, why would we ever want to do anything but worship?

Rev. David Bode is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in London, Ontario. He also serves as first vice-president of Lutheran Church–Canada East District.


  • Michael Schutz said:

    Thanks, Pastor Bode, for a good and helpful article. It’s always been interesting to me, this notion of eternal worship, and the images that we all likely have in our minds of just what that might involve specifically.

    Also, I really appreciate the focus on both corporate worship and vocational worship in the life of a Christian. I think you’re right that many tend to limit not only worship, but the very notion of “church” to the hour on Sunday. (It is certainly true that we are the church very clearly when we are gathered around Word and Sacrament, but we don’t cease being the church when we hear the benediction – “church gathered” leads to “church deployed”). I appreciate your leading us away from that limiting notion of worship to a fuller, richer understanding.

  • domain registration India said:

    I feel that, God is in our heart. We should keep our heart “white” then god always stay in our heart.

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