Thursday, March 26, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 4

These are a series of thoughts based on the 'Psalms of Ascent' and inspired by Eugene Peterson's devotional entitled "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction". I have especially tried to apply them in this time of unprecedented war versus the Covid-19 global crisis.

My prayer is that this would be a time of exponential revival and return to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. and that the Church would be awakened to gospel proclamation.

May this be a great time of prayer and service in love!

Psalm 122
 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!

 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
  to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for  Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
 There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May they be secure who love you!
  Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
  For my brothers and companions' sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Never in my lifetime did I ever expect to see churches completely empty on the Lord's Day. And though I have been encouraged by our great efforts in streaming the services..... it has been a void in our land.

Psalm 122 is a reminder that a source of our joy is worship. It has been said that 'without worship, we shrink'.

The longer I try to live this daily goal of an uphill walk, the more I understand how I have missed and mis-understood worship.

I have blogged before on this fleeting topic:

Arch Bishop of Canterbury- William Temple had this definition of worship:“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose.And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.”

But even this seems mechanical.

Let me write a minute on the nature of worship and then express an obvious problem.

When I catch a bass on a beautiful lake, I often don't see it for what it is- pure worship. My heart leaps at the intersection of beauty and competition, amazement and adventure.

When I am running or walking on a beautiful Fall day and feel the cool breeze and experience the splash of a columbia blue stained skyline- I experience worship.

I have been listening to some old playlists lately during this time.... music stirs worship in me as well.

I experience a worshipful joy when Bruce Springsteen sings, "come on and RISE UP" and rebuild the city of ruins. I clutch my fist and echo his sentiment. Or Bob Dylan sings "Pressing ON" or George Strait sings "What Goes Up"- another King George masterpiece.....

I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Caught a glimpse of Heaven when I couldn't catch my breath
I felt His presence in the darkest of days
I've asked for direction,
And I've been shown the way
And I believe when I pray, Somebody hears
When I fall on my knees, my words aren't fallin' on deaf ears
And He has the answers
When the answers can't be found
I know without a doubt what goes up comes down
I've been lead from temptation
Though I was standing at it's door
Delivered from evil when I could run no more
I've seen the eyes of God through the eyes of a child
I've thanked Him for my blessings
And I've felt it when he smiled
I raise my hands when my burdens are too heavy
And He lifts me up just like that cross
He didn't have to carry
My greatest prayers will be answered
When he returns to claim his crown
I know without a doubt
What goes up comes down (I believe)
What goes up must come down (I believe)

I have also experienced worship when I confess sin or sit at a sunset.

But herein lies the problem- I'm pointing largely to ascetic responses of emotion that may or may not be true worship.

John 4:24, "God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
Is it possible to worship in spirit and not truth? Is it possible to have truth and not spirit?

Let me complicate it further: I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord!

How many Sunday mornings have I felt that way? Why not more?

I went to Graceland one time. I walked into a time capsule back to the 1970's. Like a stopped clock, the jungle room was once a cool place to hangout, but now seemed so plastic.

I am saddened when I see what the church did to historical sites in the middle east. They would build a sanctuary on top of it. I'm sure it was a monumental architectural achievement in its day- but the covering now seems to hide the beauty of what was real and authentic.

Before I am misunderstood here, I need to make the point clearer. My joy in worship is hampered when I just keep it to the same routine I have been doing for decades. What type of heart preparation am I doing to pull off the shag carpet and trash the plastic?

What am I covering up in man made structures that God wants to let out?

And we need to challenge the corporate body to do the same. You can't control the spirit and truth never changes- but truth is also true from all angles.

Here is a truth. When I take time in my week for personal and corporate worship- I have a better pace and more endurance for the journey.

When I grow weary of worship- I quickly fade in my climb.

I worry that we skip from church to church in some nostalgic reach for the past when what we need is a new forward leaning freshness toward our worship to reclaim the passion that encompasses truth.

And maybe that is what I am climbing to. The Psalm here is a look forward to the TOP of the mountain. I AM GOING TO JERUSALEM! Glad to go- but it will be some work to get there.

This is what we are looking forward to ... literally, "I am going to be able to go back to church...soon!" and figuratively, "I am going to be in the new Jerusalem...soon!"

At the top of the mountain will be the culmination and climax of all that is lacking in my pitiful attempts to worship.

You may be familiar with C.S. Lewis "Footnote to All Prayers"- I might need to tag this on my worship as well.

 He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
      When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
      And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
      Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
      Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
      Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
      And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
      The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
      Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
      Our arrows, aimed unskilfully, beyond desert;
      And all men are idolators, crying unheard
      To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
      Take not, O Lord, our literal sense.  Lord, in thy great
      Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

Let me try to summarize this and link it back to the Psalm.

The Psalmist here is excited about the destination. He is going to his city, the Lord's city, and the great temple to worship.

The city not only is under the care of the Lord- it is said to be unified and peaceful.

All of this is a type and shadow.. of both the Savior and the heavenly Jerusalem.

So we should show that same type of excitement and anticipation of our type and shadow... private yes, but primarily corporate worship.

I should prepare myself to enjoy with gladness the worship in a place of unity and peace.

This preparation should not be hindered by style or my distractions or fatigue.

And this gives me inspiration and endurance for the climb. These are small tastes of a city which will stand forever. I wish I were there right now!

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