Worship and Praise: Stroking God's Ego?
"Stand at the gate of the house of Adonai and proclaim this word: "Listen to the word of Adonai (“Lord; my ruler”), all you from Y’hudah (Judah) who enter these gates, to worship Adonai!" (Jeremiah 7:2 Complete Jewish Bible [CJB])
What is the good in a religion that has a God that needs to have His ego stroked every Sunday? How divinely narcissistic can you get? I know there are people, Christian and non-Christian, who think about this. Isn't God all sufficient in Himself? What the heck does He need with human volunteers screeching and squawking, often off-pitch, to make Him feel better about Himself? Why would He need Christian bands striving to sound smooth and professional when He has angels in Heaven, with perfect pitch and rhythm, to give Him a much better concert than humans with "second rate poetry to third rate music," as C.S. Lewis called it?
So, is worship caterwauling Christians on Sunday mornings to get God to like them?
No. Lost the game, folks. You don't win the car.
Here’s what's wrong with that thinking: The idea that God needs us for anything. He made us and if He needed anything from us, He would have just made what He needed and skip us pain-in-the-neck humans in the first place.
Praise is the thoughts and meditations of our hearts expressed in attitude, speech and praise. What I pray, what I speak or sing, is praise." We are supposed to be active participants involved in praise and worship, not passive spectators, and we are supposed to abandon ourselves to the real excitement of being together in God's presence.
UFMC is located in Steelers country, so let me use them as an illustration: You've scored tickets at the 50 yard line for the Super Bowl and the Steelers are playing against the Patriots. The Steelers win 100-8 against the Patriots - a rout, we really stomped 'em, they tucked their tails between their legs and ran home. You look knowingly at those with you and quietly say, "Well, that is certainly gratifying that our team won. Good for them. Shall we adjourn to our humble abode for light snacks and refreshments?" WRONG! You jump up and down and yell and scream and wave your arms and hands because because (1) we won the Super Bowl and (2) we beat the Patriots and boy they had it coming! In worship and praise we get excited because (1) We won and death and sin and suffering have been snuffed out and we have the eternal victory through the living Christ and Savior, Jesus, forever and (2) we beat the snot out of the devil and his demons for good and saw them thrown into the lake of fire to bother us nevermore. That's at least as exciting as the Steelers winning against the Patriots, isn't it?
Praise is the thoughts and meditations of our hearts expressed in attitude, speech and praise. What I pray, what I speak or sing, is praise. Worship is what I do when I praise. Standing, folding and clapping hands, closing eyes, kneeling, dancing, shouting for joy and victory, doing the "Pentecostal two step" (making a slight sway from left to right and back, one step then the other), laughter, tears - the physical things we do with our bodies that are the expressions of praise. Praise is from the heart and mind. Worship is the visible response to the praise.
So why do this stuff in the first place? The fact is, our human ego needs to be ratcheted down several pegs.
We tend to think of ourselves as all that and a bag of chips. Worship and praise shift the focus off ourselves and other people and puts it where we receive the very Source of life itself. We declare that there is a God, Yahweh (the name God told Moses to reveal His identity), the Source of all things, the One Who spoke the universe into being, Who came to earth as a human, went to the cross to suffer and bleed and die and resurrect from the dead for you and for me.
Sunday is not the only time for worship and praise. God doesn't need us for His ego's sake; we need God for our life's sake. Sunday is not the day for worship. Every time we see God's hand and know joy; every time we long for God's hand in sorrow, grief, and despair; when we get bogged down with the cares and idiocy of living in this world; when we need an encounter with God that assures us we mean something and everything to Him; when we feel small and unimportant and worthless; those are the times and circumstances when worship takes us to His throne room to be welcomed as the royal princes and princesses of the Eternal King.
The corporate worship and praise experience we go to usually on Sunday is when we enjoy the feast together as the redeemed and adopted children of God. It's when we see that together we are celebrating what is beyond our complete understanding but reveals the worth and value of all of us. It reinforces to us that this world is not our permanent home, but just a squatting place before we we get to our true home forever. Indeed, it lets us know that we, for all our flaws and foibles and faults and stubbornness and just plain orneriness, are heading toward a truly awesome and perfect place that we will experience as getting more and more awesome and perfect through Eternity. And we will experience it together. In perfect resurrected bodies. No aging, no sickness, no death, no death and taxes - perfection itself.
Come and worship and praise with God's works-in-progress - His children - together this Sunday. Don't do it to get something out of it - do it to add to it for us all, so we can experience God's love and goodness more and more. Hear His Word from His heart and learn how to make it life's practice.
Get ready for ...
Blessings from here to eternity,