Devotion and Prayer for Week of October 14, 2012

Meditation for the Week of October 14, 2012

 

“‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.”       Exodus 20:24

 

Lately, worship has been on my mind and it has caused me to ask a lot of questions.  How are we to understand what worship really is?  What exactly is going on when we gather together as God’s people?  Why do we gather together to pray, praise and give thanks to God?  How does it benefit God?  How does it benefit us?

These are foundational questions and they forced me to do a little digging in the Scriptures.  So, as part of my inquiry, I stumbled across the above verse from Exodus and I have to tell you, it is a gem in terms of helping us truly understand God’s purpose in worship.

As best I can tell, these are the earliest, direct instructions from God regarding worship.  They come right on the heels of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt.  To be more precise, God gives these directions to Moses just after giving the people of Israel the Ten Commandments.  That’s the context.

Now, granted, it really is just one verse but pay particular attention to the second half of the verse.  Notice, as the people gather to make their offerings and sacrifices, who is “causing” this to happen?  It is God himself.  Without getting too much into the Hebrew grammar of this verse, what is clear is that God is the “actor,” so to speak, in worship.  He causes his name to be honored by gathering his people together.  Matthew 18, verse 20 expresses the same sentiment, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Take note of the underlined words.  They are passive.  If two are three “are gathered” that means someone else is gathering them and that someone, of course, is God.

God calls us by faith to be his people and as his people he continually calls us to come to that place where his name is honored, or, again more precisely, remembered.  He calls us into his presence.  That place is worship.

And here is where it gets even better.  Typically, we think of worship as something we are doing for God.  Consequently, worship becomes our obligation to give God what is due him.  As my parents used to admonish me when I was a teenager, “After all God does for you, the least you can do is give him an hour of your time on Sunday.”  The problem with this view, however, is that it takes what God intends as a gift and turns it into a chore.

However, from the verse above we learn that God never intended worship to be a chore.  Again, take note of what he says.  “Where I cause my name to be honored . . . I will come to you and bless you.  Who receives the blessings of worship?  We do.  That’s God’s point.  God is in need of nothing from us but we are in desperate need of his blessings.  Worship is that place where God, gathering us together as his people, blesses us.  That has always, from the beginning, been the point of worship.

How, then, does he bless us?  He blesses us through his gifts.  He blesses us through absolution where he grants us the forgiveness of our sins for the sake of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  He blesses us through his Word as it is read and as it is preached that we might hear of the salvation that he has won for us through the cross of Jesus.  And, he blesses us through Holy Communion where we receive the very body and the very blood of Jesus who died for us that we might live for him now in time and for all eternity.

In worship, God comes to bless us.  Do you want to receive his blessings?  Do you want to receive his gifts?  They are readily available where he promises.  They are here in worship, where he causes his name to be honored.

 Our Weekly Prayer 

Most gracious God, in your continual goodness you have chosen to come to us to bless us.  We thank for all your blessings and ask that you give us eyes to see that worship is not our doing, but yours whereby you come to give us your gifts.  Through the faith that you have given us, help us to grasp hold of your Word and Sacraments so that we might receive the fullness of all that Christ Jesus has done for us that our sins might be forgiven and that we might have everlasting life.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord and in his name we pray.  Amen.