Summary: 1. We need to get in touch with our Creator. 2. We need to get in touch with eternity. 3. We need to get in touch with hope.
Someone has written about the difference in worship styles in story form, using a bit of humor: “An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. ‘Well,’ said the farmer, ‘It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise songs instead of hymns.’ ‘Praise songs,’ said his wife, ‘What are those?’ ‘Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,’ said the farmer. ‘Well, what’s the difference?’ asked his wife. The farmer said, ‘Well it’s like this — If I were to say to you: “Martha, the cows are in the corn,” well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: “Martha Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the CORN, CORN, CORN,” then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise song.’
“Next Sunday a young, new Christian went to a small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. ‘Well,’ said the young man, ‘It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.’ ‘Hymns,’ said his wife, ‘What are those?’ ‘Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,’ said the young man. ‘Well, what’s the difference?’ asked his wife. The young man said, ‘Well it’s like this — If I were to say to you, “Martha, the cows are in the corn,” Well that would be a regular praise song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:
‘Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.
For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.’
Then, if I were to sing only verses one, three and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”
Unfortunately, people’s differences in worship styles are not always met with that same kind of humor. Being people of habit, we think worship should happen in only one way — which just happens to be our way. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a wide variety of worship styles in my lifetime. I have been in very formal Episcopal and Roman Catholic services and enjoyed them very much. When I went to England we worshiped in the majestic and historic Church of England where there is not only formality, but carefully staged pomp and circumstance which added to the aura of worship. While I was in seminary I pastored four little Methodist churches in the mountains of northern Kentucky. In one church the people sat on wooden benches and clapped their hands and stomped their feet to the hymns. I have been in black churches, Pentecostal churches, large independent churches and small country churches and felt the presence of God in each of them. Some of them still stand out in my mind as some of the most moving experiences I have had in worship. When I go to the Abbey of the Genesee, I attend the services there. The simplicity of the Trappist monk’s service with quiet solitude and the reading of Scripture is very meaningful. I have also been in prayer meetings with former drug addicts who shout their thanksgiving to God and speak in tongues. Each of these worship experiences has enriched my spiritual life and I have experienced the presence of God in new ways in each of those settings.
We want to ask the question this morning: What is worship, and why do we need it? The first response is: We need to get in touch with our Creator. Our thoughts are so often filled with ourselves and our needs that we need to take time to focus on something besides ourselves. By understanding who God is, we understand who we are. We are a part of God’s divine creation. He has made us and our lives belong to him. He has given us life, and it is our privilege to give our lives back to him. The Bible says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). We offer ourselves to God as an act of worship. We don’t just give our money, or our words of praise, we give ourselves. Just as the Old Testament priests laid the lambs as offerings to God on the altar, so we lay ourselves before God and offer ourselves to him.