This is part 2 in a 2 part series. If you missed it, you can read part 1 here
What frustrates me about the indoctrinational aspect of Sunday morning worship is that so much of it is often so half-hearted. This seems most clear to me whenever I’ve sung the song, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever. I have to note that I have no theological, or artistic problem with the song. I enjoy the work of Delirious? very much. My problem is with the way we sing it (and yes, I realize that fortunately the era of singing this one to death is long past).
I could sing of Your love forever, (Repeat endlessly, or 4 times, whichever seems longer)
Oh, I feel like dancing – it’s foolishness I know;
but, when the world has seen the light,
they will dance with joy, like we’re dancing now.
Every time I’ve sung this song, I have had two main thoughts. The first is about whether anyone in the room is thinking, “I really wish that this worship service would never ever end. I am just going to quit my job and everything I do so that I can just do this from now on.” The second thought involves me noticing that everyone is just standing there singing until it reaches the line about dancing, and then they step side to side for a couple measures, so that they aren’t actively lying to God. If they didn’t do this, someone might stop them after church and say, “Why are you hurting God’s heart by not doing the Worship Two-Step?”
Now contrast that with the scene in Isaiah, chapter 6 where Isaiah is brought into God’s throne room. I love the first verse, which just nonchalantly says “I saw the LORD, seated on His throne…” right after a detailed description of the timeframe. It is like slipping you winning the lottery into a diary entry on what happened during your day. Reading it that way, I imagine Isaiah on an anonymous Thursday afternoon when, BAM, he’s in front of God, and everything goes into overload.
As Isaiah describes the scene in this throne room, he is wrecked. He’s lying face down on the ground screaming at God that he isn’t worthy to be here. All he can think about is how his personal dirtiness is so vile in the presence of god. I don’t sense Isaiah thinking much about this, just falling and screaming. God picks him up, dusts him off, cleanses him, and starts talking to him as a son.
Bear in mind that Isaiah didn’t come to this little party as a heathen. He was already a prophet of God. He was one of the good guys. But Isaiah suddenly had a new realization of who God actually is, in a deeper way than he ever had, and he could no longer even stand up.
I bet Isaiah would have quite a chuckle as he watched us sing many of our worship songs. I guess that most of the characters in the Bible would. David danced around the city semi-naked-ecstatic. Paul worshipped as he sat chained between soldiers in prison. So did Daniel as lions licked their lips and imaged him as a roast, Wile-E-Coyote-style. They did all this without even having video projection.
I bet many churches throughout history have worried that they are secretly the church of Laodicea. I worry sometimes too. I don’t think we are, but I bet that the church of Laodicea thought they were quite awesome at their worship too. Jesus was out front banging at the door for them to invite him to the party, but they couldn’t hear him over the sub-woofer.
I hope God doesn’t hear our worship and get really upset at how polished and hollow and arrogant it is. Sometimes I approach worship so arrogant and distracted. I hope I never have an Isaiah experience that leaves me wrecked, but I bet Isaiah would have counted it as the best moment of his life. Maybe in that light, my worship is pretty hollow. -Ryan