By Chuck Griffin
So, we’ve talked about what it means to gather ourselves in search of God, and we’ve talked about how God is consistently present through Scripture. What is an appropriate response to God’s presence?
A celebration! The third part of worship is like a thank-you, praise-you party thrown for God, where we declare the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer to be worthy of honor.
Again, it’s one of those reasons I like to put the declaration of God’s word up front as much as possible in a worship service. I think a lot of people struggle with worship because we don’t spend enough time rejoicing, and it’s hard to celebrate until we’ve really heard from God. When we fail to celebrate in worship, we miss out on the joy of being Christian, a joy available to us regardless of our circumstances.
I know—we may not always feel like rejoicing. We may have entered worship thinking about being poor, sick or lonely. We may be broken by our sins or feeling victimized by the sins of others. Those aren’t ideal situations, but our current circumstances brighten considerably when we put them in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.
You see such celebratory worship in the Old Testament. One example would be the story in 1 Chronicles 16:1-6, when David returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And before these more formal acts, there were exuberant acts on the way to Jerusalem: sacrifices, singing, dancing and music.
Celebratory worship continues in the New Testament, particularly after the victorious nature of Christ’s work on the cross is made clear in the resurrection. We’re told in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
God’s word begets gratitude, and with gratitude in our hearts, we sing and direct our celebration toward our audience, God.
I know not everyone rejoices and celebrates in the same way, just as people will enjoy a party in different ways. I’ve always been more of a wallflower at a party. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy parties; it just means I’m not necessarily going to put a lampshade on my head.
You may be a fairly laid-back, reserved person in worship. A lot of people feel awkward jumping up and shouting “Amen!” while holding their hands up in the air. Thank God for the worshipers who do such things; they are a great help to worship in general.
If you’re reserved in nature, ask yourself this: Am I celebrating? Does that joy regarding Christ’s gift wash over my soul, at least as a quiet, tender experience?
Do I let the music take me back to the revelation of God I’ve just heard, connecting my emotions to my logic? Do I understand the prayers we lift up corporately are an open door to heaven? When I come to the table for communion, am I expecting to meet the one who will feed me for all eternity?
God calls you to such celebratory experiences whenever you stand before him in worship.
Lord, our loss of exuberant celebration is perhaps the greatest denial we suffer right now. Help us to better celebrate you in our private time and family time, and assure us of our return to a celebratory congregation soon. Amen.