as i have reflected on this, i have realized that one of the issues for the church today, i believe, is that we have failed to give God priority. i mean, we certainly give God lip-service, or at least some of us do. but when it comes right down to it, God is no longer the center of our church experience (and its not because God has moved!). instead of God, the focus of our worship is often ourselves. as a pastor i contstantly hear comments that expose this self-centeredness:
"i'm just not getting anything out of worship anymore"
"i can't get into that kind of music, i wish we would do more..."
"i'm not getting fed"
"i loved the service, it really made me feel..."
now, while there is nothing wrong with these statements fundamentally, they do reveal a kind of self-centeredness in our worship experience. it gives the impression that worship is all about what we get out of it, or how it makes us feel, or what gives us the kind of experience we are looking for.
we've got it all wrong.
for the last couple of weeks, my son caedmon, who just turned three, is going through a stage in which every time he sees me (even if he just saw me two minutes before), he says in a very sincere and matter-of-fact tone, "hello daddy. i love you."
now that is worship. seriously. that is worship. cade doesn't say to me, "daddy, if you would just make me feel content, i would love you," or, "i love you when you give me a feeling of joy or peace." cade doesn't seem to hinge his declaration of love on anything at all. he just seems to delight in telling me that he loves me. now, i'm not suggesting that worship is only us repeatedly uttering words of love to God, but i am saying that our worship should be centered completely on God, and not on what we can get out of it. the church today seems to miss this point. we worry more about how we feel. or about why there aren't more people in the pews. or why there isn't more money in the plate. or why the sermon doesn't speak to us. or why the music is not our favorite. or why mrs. mcstuckerson insists on wearing gallons of flowery perfume. when what we should be worrying about is how to raise our hands to heaven and find a way to really say and believe this: "hello Daddy. i love you." what we need to be focused on is finding a way, through the music and the liturgy, to say, "you are God. i am not. you are my priority. and where you are not my priority...where other things have crept in to take your place, help me get back on track so that you can be my priority again."
now that's worship. worship, quite literally, is giving God worth-ship. it is saying, "God, you are worthy." it isn't a refueling hour or an inspiration station. it isn't a fellowship time or an obligation. it is time that you set apart with others to say "hello Daddy. we love you." and not just with your words. but with your whole heart. and your whole soul. and your whole mind. and with your whole self.
the whole enchilada.