Made for Worship

psa 148 2 Psalm 148 calls upon all heaven and earth to worship. It is not just people; not just believing people. It is every single thing that “is.” The shout of worship begins in the heavens with the angels (v. 1-2). It flows through the sun and moon and stars. (v. 3-4). Verses 7-10 beckons:

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

So, how does a mountain, a fruit tree, a creeping beetle, and the white breasted nuthatch I saw in my backyard “Praise the Lord?” James Mays, in his commentary on the Psalms* writes: “The stormy wind fulfills his command by being a stormy wind. The creation and the creatures praise in their very being and doing, by existing and filling their assigned place.”

So, how does a mountain, a fruit tree, a creeping beetle, and the white breasted nuthatch I saw in my backyard “Praise the Lord?” James Mays, in his commentary on the Psalms* writes: “The stormy wind fulfills his command by being a stormy wind. The creation and the creatures praise in their very being and doing, by existing and filling their assigned place.”

Israel has been given a vocation of praise according to verse 14: “He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to them.” This means God’s people are the voice of all creation’s praise. We are given a vocation, a purpose, to give voice to creation’s praise, even as that praise is embedded deep within.

We worship God when we are what we are created to be. We are created to love, to tend psa 148 3and care for creation, to live with others in community. At the heart of things, however, we are called to worship – to praise God by being God’s people. St. Augustine said it this way: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” 

Augustine also knew that because we are willful and easily distracted; because we often mistake ourselves and our desires for God, we can turn this impulse to worship in the wrong direction. In his Confessions, he shares this discovery: “But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in Him but in myself and His other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.” 

As one anonymous writer has said, “What we worship determines what we become.” When we worship God, we keep becoming what God created us to be. When we worship other things we find no rest, only pain from gods who demand too much and return too little. It is no wonder that with lives full of work, activities, bills, – all demanding our devotion, our commitment, our allegiance – we suffer. We are not what we were meant to be.

The gifted writer and professor, David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), in This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life offered this contemporary analysis in the midst of his own brilliance and struggle: “Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship… If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.” Augustine’s counsel? “If the things of this world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that the things that please you may not displease Him.” 

Summer is upon us and we will find even more reasons to make worshipping God less a calling and more an extracurricular activity. Instead of allowing our praise of God to infuse the summer events, work, and vacation with joy and meaning, we will spend our impulse to worship on the things themselves and find little that lasts. We will offer worship on Wednesday evenings when the weekend is full. We will gather on Saturday evenings when Sunday is just to packed with fun. We will be here every Sunday gathered in small and large numbers to do what God made us to do and to be what God called us to be. Don’t mistake a blessing for the source of all blessings.

cup patenYou can’t really worship God revealed in Christ on a golf course or in a fishing boat, no matter how many times we tell the joke or make the excuse. As C.S. Lewis said “In the process of being worshiped… God communicates his presence to (humanity).”  And God knows (and we know deep down) that we need God’s presence more than we need anything else.

Pax Christi, Tim Olson, Lead Pastor  

*James L. Mays, Psalms: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. (Louisville: John Knox Press) 1994. p. 445

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