Dear church family,
Most of you know that I lead the singing at Church. Often, we refer to this act as “worship.” It’s sort of an unfortunate thing that this word has become so closely associated with the songs we sing at church. It’s not that singing these songs isn’t worship; it’s just that this is only a sliver of what worship is. The danger is that after having referred to these songs as “worship” so many times, we start to lose that distinction. Soon, we lose sight of the fact that worship is something that permeates everything we do.
Apparently God’s people have had this problem for some time now. We have thought that doing certain things was what God actually wanted from us, but it turned out that we were missing the forest for the trees. In passages like Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, and Amos 5, we discover that God really didn’t care about Israel’s “acts of worship” (in this case being things like fasting and offering sacrifices) when they weren’t actually living out what it meant to be God’s people on a daily basis. In Isaiah 1 God tells us what he really thinks of Israel’s acts of worship:
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me! (Isaiah 1:11-13)
Instead, God wanted Israel’s worship to look like this:
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows. (Isaiah 1:17)
How I sometimes wish that God had said something different! If only he’d said, “Learn to sing on key. Seek beats two and four. Help the tone deaf. Defend the cause of the sound system upgrade. Fight for the rights of guitarists to have more of themselves in the monitor.”
But he didn’t say that, did he?
As a worship leader, these verses are some of the scariest verses in the Bible. If I’m supposed to somehow lead people into true worship, I need to ask myself to what degree my own life reflects justice and righteousness. Because otherwise, I’m fairly convinced that God might be about as sick of the songs I sing as he was with Israel’s burnt rams. Maybe even more so, because I claim to be a “professional.”
Now, I said that these verses are scary to me, and they are. But on the other hand, they’re beautiful. They’re beautiful because they reveal what kind of God we’re actually worshiping. Turns out that he is a God who doesn’t clamor for our attention out of some tyrannical need to be praised. Instead, what ticks God off is when his children go without, when widows are harmed, when justice is not served. And when it comes right down to it, that is a God who I don’t have a hard time worshiping. That’s the kind of God I have no problem boasting in. That’s the kind of God I can clap my hands for, lift my hands to, write songs about, and dance in the streets before. That’s the kind of God before whom I can stand in awe. He is a God who has every right in the universe to turn his nose up at us pesky humans, but he doesn’t. Instead, his heart breaks for us. I don’t understand it. But it’s awesome.
So we’ve come full circle. I hope that The Ransom continues to be a church that worships passionately. By that, I mean a church that reflects God’s heart in the world. Let my guitar go out of tune, my voice disappear, and every speaker fall from the sky. But let this church forever pursue the forgotten and the lost. Let us pursue the very heart of God. Because when we do, then we will find that we have something to sing about.
See you Sunday.