Summary: August 1989: If we want to be lifted up out of our unhappiness through worship, we must bring our whole selves to the worship experience and must pray passionately even our negative wishes.
I recently became aware that some folks shop for a church much as you would shop for a car or a home appliance. In talking with some people about joining our church, they said that they were shopping – that’s their word, not mine -- that they were shopping for a church by systematically attending each church in the neighborhood, and when they had shopped them all, then they would compare values and make a decision.
Well, when I considered the fact that there are some 38 Christian congregations who meet for worship within one mile of this front door, I realized that it would be quite a while before these folks made up their minds. And so I just had to ask them, "Well, what will be your basis for decision? After all, these 38 churches will be very different in many ways, they will have different programs, they will have different sizes and different kinds of people in them, not to mention widely different doctrines. Is there anything in particular you are looking for?"
And the answer came back, swift and sure: "We are looking for a church where we can get a lift every Sunday."
“We are looking for a church where we can get a lift every Sunday.” And when I probed a little more, what I found was something that I suspect is common to all of us, something we all look for. These folks felt themselves mired down, drawn down, every week, by the responsibilities they faced. They felt themselves, to a degree, contaminated by the stain of everyday life. And they needed something on Sunday which would help them get up on Monday and do it all over again.
Can I get a lift? Can I get a lift at worship? I understand the question, but I believe that the answer is far more complex than most of us imagine. Getting a lift out of worship is not automatic, it is not something that can be manufactured, it is not a matter of decibels of volume or of intense rhetorical gymnastics; getting a lift out of worship is not a question of how good the preacher is or how vigorous the deacons’ handshakes are or of how beautiful the church building is. Getting a lift at worship is in some ways not even something we can plan for.
The writer of the 28th Psalm came to worship one day needing a lift. A good deal was happening in his life, and he felt some desperation. He felt, for example, a little isolated, a little alone, and he needed to know that God was not very far away and that God was listening to him. And so he came to get a lift out of worship.
And this same Psalmist was in trouble with some folks. He didn’t feel very good about his neighbors. He saw himself surrounded by all sorts of mischief-makers. He was kind of like the fellow who said, "I could run a great poultry farm if I wasn’t surrounded by all these turkeys!" The psalmist came to worship feeling out of sorts with his neighbors, and he needed a lift.
And you know what? He got it. Let’s find out how.
First of all, he speaks about that feeling of being alone and unheard.
And then he tells us about those turkeys, about the folks he is stuck with. He brings that concern to his worship life. Psalm 28:3-5