If our hearts need to be recalibrated to the Lord’s design and break free of the subconscious influences pulling us down paths we do not intend, James K.A. Smith points to worship as the key to recalibration:
“One of the goals of Christian worship is to “character-ize” us…”
Most of us immediately think of music when we read or hear the word worship, but it is far more than that and includes the form and flow of the liturgy in whatever format we experience. It reminds us of the “God story” of which we are a part. It reminds us of who we are and who we are to be because of the Lord and where our citizenship is.
One of the many losses most of us have experienced has been not being able to participate in community services of worship during the viral pandemic. I believe that has surely affected our difficulty with dealing with all the chaos and challenges we have been living through. Worshipping alone or online does not envelope us as it does when we are in the midst of others worshipping.
Tuning out the abundance of news and headlines while driving during this time has become my habit. Instead I have enjoyed podcasts and a smorgasbord of worship music and yesterday I pulled out a CD that I had not listened to for quite a long time for a half hour drive to an appointment. It wove together classical themes and hymns in stunning instrumentation.
Although I enjoy so much of modern worship choruses and songs, I still love the power and story so many of the classic hymns tell. As I was listening to this CD, I was aware that we have not been in a church that does a great many hymns in the collection of music we use, but after so many years the melodies and many of the words come to mind easily.
One of the hymns on the album that stood out to me was Be Thou My Vision and as I recalled the verses of the hymn I was reminded those words echo a prayer that we all might benefit from – that the Lord is the vision that needs (more than ever) to capture our hearts. Look at the lyrics of this famous Irish hymn once again:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father; thine own may I be,
thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.
Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise;
thou mine inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only first in my heart,
high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
Never have we needed more to have Him as our vision – waking and sleeping – providing us with wisdom, being at one with the Lord and reminded once again that it is, He who is to be first in our heart.
And we don’t need to sugar coat what we are experiencing in our worship or conversations with the Lord. He wants us to be real, authentic, and honest (even brutally so) and sometimes we forget that unless we have recently read through the Psalms that are very pithy and full of honest expressions.
Our time of worship is to be that way – real, authentic, honest. We need to slough off the tendency to wrap our words and expressions with Christian verbiage and clichés’. After all, the Lord sees right through them all to what is really happening in our heart. Using them only serves to delude us and deny the Lord is big enough to handle the war, torment, anguish, and confusion going on inside of us.
Perhaps we have bought into the consumer gospel focusing on what we want and want to hear. If we do, we miss the power of God’s story throughout all time and miss the role we play in it and his purpose for us as salt and light even in uncertain dark times. That role has been one we have been consistently called to from the beginning of humankind’s creation.
James K.A. Smith in the chapter in You Are What You Love entitled What Story Are You In? – The Narrative Arc of Formative Christian Worship writes:
“Christian worship doesn’t just teach us how to think; it teaches us how to love, and it does so by inviting us into the biblical story and implanting that story in our bones.”
We need that story in our bones resonating above the noise of hopelessness and despair. When we pour out our authentic honest life experience, the Lord fills us with the “God story”and reminds us we are a part of that grand story and He has written the very best ending we can ever imagine.