Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 103; 150, Joshua 1:1-18, Acts 21:3-15,Mark 1:21-27
Praise and worship are essential to our relationship with God. Psalm 150 exemplifies praise for its own sake – not because of what God has done for us, but simply because God is worthy of praise.
What do people value in a worship service? A majority of respondents to one survey claimed how it “made them feel” was most important. A close second was liking the musical style. Interesting results, considering the focus of our worship is supposed to be God, not ourselves. It can be easy to confuse closeness to God with good feelings. Services crossing the line into entertainment (or even group therapy) facilitate such confusion. Emotions heightened through catchy music and enthusiastic crowds are a spiritual hit that fade quickly. Focus on God, rather than on how the experience makes us feel, provides a deeper connection.
Since worship services are often built around the attitudes and demands of the congregation, what is our responsibility? Well, we can set our hearts on God, regardless of whether a particular hymn drums up the warm fuzzies. We can set our minds on what we bring to worship, rather than what we take away. Many people stop attending services during times of personal crisis. Could this be because we associate worship with only good feelings, and feel pressure to put on a happy face? We can turn to many psalms as examples of praising through pain.
“Hold on,” we might say, “isn’t my church supposed to fulfill me in some way?” That’s an awful lot to expect from one hour-long service. We are more likely to find fulfillment through participation in the life of a church community. We often let feelings dictate our actions, though actions powerfully influence our feelings. Sharing community actions of justice, love and mercy is a natural extension of Sunday worship – a chance to open ourselves up to God working in our lives, and the lives of others. We don’t develop our spiritual muscles when the church hands us lightweight sentiment, but when we engage in genuine praise and worship and do the rest of the heavy lifting ourselves.
Comfort: Our faith is stronger than our feelings.
Challenge: At the next worship service you attend, be intentional in singing songs to God, and not just about God.
Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I praise you as creator of all. Amen.
Discussion: It’s entirely possible for a worship experience to be both emotionally moving and focused on God. Have you ever experienced a service or church that strikes this balance well?
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