Four Parts of Worship: Celebrate!

Devotional for Friday, May 29

So, we’ve considered what it means to gather ourselves in search of God, and we’ve examined 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.

I think a lot of people struggle with worship because we don’t spend enough time rejoicing. When we fail to celebrate in worship, we miss out on the joy of being Christian.

I know—we may not always feel like rejoicing. We may have walked into church lonely, financially troubled, disturbed by sickness or death, broken by our sins or victimized by another’s sins.

Those aren’t ideal situations, but our circumstances can brighten considerably when we put them in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. The temporary nature of this life becomes obvious when the Holy Spirit begins to work in us through God’s word, giving us a taste of what it means to be citizens of an eternal kingdom.

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 in the story, 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 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 that 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 us to such celebratory experiences whenever we 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.

Psalm 51, Day 3

Devotional for Wednesday, May 20

Psalm 51:7-9
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.

At this point in the psalm, David seeks not only forgiveness, he seeks what we Methodists call sanctification. He wants release not only from the sins committed, he wants to be released from the underlying cause of sin, the basic brokenness we all experience as human beings.

To be transformed in such a way is an ongoing process. The trials we undergo in this life can actually help, assuming we use them as an opportunity to turn to God and trust in God to provide a path through them.

In Revelation 7, we hear of those “who died in the great tribulation,” and we see the cleansing power of Christ’s sacrifice. “They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white,” we are told. Jesus is the answer in the most difficult of times.

We also see that as painful as our trials and brokenness can be, there is the possibility of joy as we allow God to cleanse us. We have hope.

Meditate today on hope in the midst of repentance and sorrow. We’ll explore sanctification further tomorrow.

Lord, you not only save us, you heal us in the here and now. May your work be complete in this life. Amen.