February 13, 2012

Creator and Creative Worship


Church mailboxes fill up with catalogs peddling books on how to enliven worship. They promise "Worship That Will Turn Your Small Church into a Large Church" and offer ideas to punch up preaching: "Fifty Funny Illustrations to Keep Them Laughing," "Sad, Sad, Sad Stories Guaranteed to Make Them Cry," "Booming, Busting Sermons for Baby Boomers and Baby Busters," "Alliterative Outlines That Gladden, Glorify and Glitter Gracefully" and for less articulate preachers, "Sermons You Can Mime."

Books on pepping up worship come in a dazzling variety: "Children's Sermons That Will Make Adults Think You're Clever," "Sacred Puppetry is Not an Oxymoron," "Utilizing Kazoos in Worship" and "Praise Choruses: One Word, Two Notes, Three Hours." Church supply companies sell gospel gimmicks that include rotating pulpits, bubbling baptisteries, pews equipped with cell phones and offering plates with credit card machines. Customers can get the impression worship is about the worshippers.

Why do we go to worship? If it's to be entertained, then we ought to admit that it's not much of a show. If we go for self-improvement, then therapy could be more useful. If we go to feel better, then breakfast in bed with the newspaper might be a better choice. The only reason good enough to get up and go to a worship service is to worship God. We worship to give ourselves to God or we're missing the point.

Accept God's love (Malachi 1:1-5)

The people in Malachi's day thought their worship was fine, but they were missing the point. After returning from the exile, they rebuilt the temple, but they did not truly worship. Malachi begins where worship must begin--with the recognition of God's love. "I have loved you, says the Lord." And the people respond cynically, "How have you loved us?" (v. 2). Genuine worship starts when we open our eyes and see God's love.

Offer God your best (Malachi 1:6-9)

Malachi points to second-rate offerings as evidence of careless worship. The people "place defiled food on my altar" (v. 7) by bringing blind, crippled and diseased animals for sacrifice. The Hebrew people wanted worship that demanded little. They went through the motions without admitting we cannot live faithfully without real worship.

Recognize God's greatness (Malachi 1:10-14)

If their worship was only going to be a habit, God would rather they skip the whole thing: "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar!" (v. 10). The Hebrew people will worship authentically when they catch a vision of the greatness of God, the "name great above the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun" (v. 11). Sometimes we try to revitalize worship by changing the trappings. What we most need is to remember that we worship to give our lives to one who is greater, older, smarter and better than we are.

Verses referenced: Malachi 1:1-14

[CC Image • OnlyHope on Flickr]

Originally Published: February 13, 2012
Category: Bible Study
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