Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We Worship, We Cook!

Worship is the core of all meaningful theology.

This is sometimes difficult for those born and educated in the Western world.

In our culture, we tend to begin a spiritual journey by trying to “figure God out.”

Once I heard a popular preacher refer to the Bible as a “maintenance manual.”

“Just read it, praise God, it’s all here in the maintenance manual,” he said.

With all due respect to the preacher, the bible is not a maintenance manual.

Reading the Bible doesn’t give us a relationship with God any more than reading a cookbook produces a romantic dinner for two. Preparing a romantic dinner involves action and intention. And, it may involve a cookbook! However, we can study the cookbook all we like, learn the language in which it was written (French, most likely) reflect on its different recipes and talk about the origin of its preferred herbs and spices. All of that can be interesting and informative. None of it will prepare a dinner.

If we want a romantic dinner, we have to actually chop up garlic, marinate shrimp and chill the wine. We have to sit down. We must look into the eyes of our loved one and have a conversation. The meal becomes a setting in which a relationship may develop.

Reading about a relationship -- even studying intently about it – cannot be the main thing.

Western culture reaches us to define things.

I’m glad it does!

Defining terms and clarifying concepts is essential if one’s study and research is to result in science, technology or mathematics. These sorts of cultural developments have been the fruit of Western civilization because of its commitment to measurement and definition.

In the last four hundred years however, Westerners have learned to abhor mystery.

That is a spiritual and emotional disaster.

Somewhere along the way, we learned to define mystery as “something we haven’t figured out yet.”

However, God is—and will always be -- a mystery.

We cannot fit God into our minds.

Even if we were to learn everything that God has chosen to reveal about Himself, He would still be an incomprehensible mystery.

God is God.

He is beyond everything that is, seen and unseen.

How could we possibly understand this –at least understand it in the way we understand geometry or the use of a remote control?

What God reveals to us about Himself -- whether through nature, Holy Scripture, or any other vehicle of revelation – remains beyond our intellectual abilities.

Therefore, our spiritual journey always begins with, and continually leads us back to, worship.

Among other things, worship involves contemplating God’s revelation of Himself to us.

Worship involves our heartfelt expression of the awe that God’s presence invokes.

Worship leads us to meditate upon God’s perspective about the world and human nature.

Worship involves growing desire to trust God.

Worship gradually changes our behavior.

Above all, worship is a commitment: to keep stretching our understanding, emotion, actions; indeed, our entire being, toward God.

Worship involves reading the “cookbook,” but leads to gathering the ingredients, making a mess, cooking the food, setting the table, and sitting in the company of those we love. We do all we know to do to understand God and His people.

We know that we will never fully figure out what God is all about. However, it is a real question whether we ever really ‘figure out’ anyone.

Worship is a form of love. It is profound trust and mystery. It is awe and longing. It is an investment of time. It is listening.

Being with God in these ways is the way we “study God.”

Worship then is the only meaning the word “theology” can possibly have.

It is “stretching toward God,” emotionally, behaviorally, and intellectually.

Since worshipping God involves loving Him with our whole mind, soul and strength, theology becomes an essential ingredient of our relationship with Him. It is, as one great theologian put it, “faith seeking understanding.”

This year, the members of our church are planning to read the Bible together. As we do, we will learn how to allow the scriptural stories and lessons to penetrate our hearts and minds. That will lead us into worship. In worship, we will experience the presence of God. Experiencing the presence of God will raise new questions about life, vocation and eternity. That will point us back to the scriptures where we encounter mystery, presence and relationship with God.

It’s the journey of our life – knowing God, learning His ways and being transformed from glory to glory.


stacy beam said...

I always enjoy your blog so much. Thank you.

Pastor Bob said...

Thank you for this wonderful word and thank you for opening your heart and church to my son Shawne and his wife Jess. They love the church but we miss them at our church. May the Lord continue to expand you to reach His harvest.

Pastor Bob Brown
Lighthouse Assembly
Greeneville, TN