“Have you had a good time of worship lately?” What do we mean by ‘a good time of worship?’ The band was great? The place was buzzing? There was this spine-tingling feeling from start to finish?
What does the Bible talk about as a good time of worship? Consider Cain and Abel [Gen 4:1-18]: when Abel comes to God bringing ‘fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock’ the Lord looks with favour on his offering but on Cain’s offering of ‘some of the fruits of the soil’ He didn’t look so favourably. Why not?
It’s all in the context really. Adam and Eve rebel against God, they listen to lies about Him, they defy His instructions, they end up trying to hide from Him: so what does He do? Actually, it’s what he doesn’t do that is more interesting: he doesn’t wipe them out and start again with a different couple; He doesn’t give up on the whole project of having these two, made in His image, in relationship with Him ‘fill the earth and subdue it.’ God sends them out from the garden, yes, but to do just that, to get on with the job. True, the job got much, much harder when they rebelled but God didn’t abandon them or choose another, less exalted existence for them: having made them in His image and given them their purpose in life, He wasn’t going to let their rebellion get in His way and so He set about helping them to fulfil His original purpose for them. First Cain and then Abel are a result of that goodness and mercy in the face of rebellion. That is what they call in screenwriting terms the ‘back-story.’
Now, what would you say was an appropriate response to all that? A handful of Sprouts scooped up off the heap as an afterthought or the best portions of the very best animals? A few carrots that no one would miss or the life-blood of the most treasured creature in the flock?
That is what makes a time of worship good or bad: it’s not a question of how it makes us feel, or how it looks to others, what we have to ask is if it is an appropriate response to what God has done for us.
“Love so amazing, so divine” we sing, “demands my soul, my life, my all.” A good time of worship may involve music, it may not; there may be preaching or prayer; there may be silence or loud shouting; waving flags and dancing or solemn stillness. All of it has its place so long as it is a genuine, appropriate response to what God has done for us. Given what He has done for us, it will be seen that if it is going to be anywhere near an appropriate response to God then true worship must be the most involving, costly, self-giving activity we could ever pursue.
Have you had a good time of worship lately?