Some kind of worship can be found in the archaeological history of virtually all cultures. People have always been religious and have always believed that the gods demanded something of them. Some believed they demanded human sacrifice. Some believed they required food. Some believed they required elaborate and ecstatic rituals. Some believed they required esteem and reputation. We now consider this a primitive notion, foolish and ignorant. But if Christians accept that the ancient barbaric view of worship was more insightful than today’s snide rejection, we can see how big a job it was for God to enlighten us through the progressive revelation of Scripture, especially in the special Revelation of himself in the God-man Jesus Christ.
Being pro-life unashamedly — actually believing in the intrinsic sacredness of human lives — has fought a long defeat for 40 years. That is not to say that 50 or 100 years from now people will not look back on this era and lament the barbarism of their parents and grandparents. I have some hope that this may yet be the case. But it has been a long defeat in that those fighting for intrinsic human dignity, especially in the womb, have fought for multiple generations with victory out of sight. It is demoralizing to not be near victory, especially when the casualties of this conflict are so many and still mounting so quickly.
Each year globally there are about 40 million abortions. There are 1.2 million each year in America. It has been generally reported that the abortion rate in New York City is 41%, but when broken down by Burroughs, some have rates as high as 70%. Since some estimated the abortion rate in America as high as 1.2 million in 1965, it is not unlikely that the 40 year death toll has been in excess of 40 million lives in the United States alone.
Worship is an integral part of the Christian faith, and God’s demand of our worship should be a cause of great joy – it is an act of justice, truth, goodness, generosity and compassion toward us. But one objection to Christian worship is resentment toward God for demanding worship. C.S. Lewis, before he was converted, believed that the constant demand of worship from God and the Psalms were like that of a vain, insecure old woman demanding praise and complements. The extent to which we believe this will repel us from adoring and enjoying God through worship. So is God vain to demand worship of us? Is it the product of divine insecurity and therefore only offered by us out of fear?
Think back to your first visit to the church, and try to remember how you felt singing worship songs with other churchgoers. Many of you probably enjoyed worship then and still do, but some people struggle with the fact that much of church is singing to God. To them, it seems weird that people get together each week and have a God “sing along.” From an outside perspective, a “sing along” might seem a little hokey and stupid. But in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, as well as in many Old Testament Scriptures, worship through song seems to be exactly God’s intention in commandment. Singing songs to God and about God has always been a huge part of worship in the Judeo-Christian trajectory. So should people really feel hokey or stupid doing it?
Isaiah 40:3-5 – 3 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Bob Grahmann preached two weeks ago from Isaiah 40. I never really liked Isaiah 40:3-5.
I spent several years as a wilderness leader climbing mountains and paddling rivers. Mountains and valleys are basically my favorite things in the natural world. I know it’s going to sound like a shallow objection, primarily because it is, but the mental picture that the coming of Christ was glorified by all of life’s topography being erased bothered me. And for some reason, I equated this with heaven – that somehow this passage was saying that heaven isn’t a place where the mountains are high and the valleys low but instead is a place of flattened-out sameness.
There are two tasks that are absolutely integral to building strong Christian movements, believing individuals and solid families:
- Helping people move from a very large group comfortably into small groups in a way that seems relationally natural.
- Delivering important educational content necessary for full Christian transformation.
Small group communities and large group worship services have a hard time addressing these tasks. On one level I really wish that large group worship services and small groups were sufficient to meet the ministry needs of families and individuals. It would be so much simpler from an organizational and leadership perspective to have ministries to adults, youth and children based on these two types of environments. But there are a couple of problems.