There’s a chance I’m constructing a soapbox with this week’s sermon. It shared several similarities with my recent talk at the Rochester Unity Service. I’m convinced that our worship has to be relevant to its context. Although I didn’t spend a lot of time discussing Exodus 15 closely, I believe we learn from the spontaneous worship the Israelites offered God after He’d rescued them through the Red Sea.
When we define worship as beginning and ending with an opening and closing prayer on Sunday, we not only place God in a box, we limit our relationship with Him. The Bible undeniably teaches that we should make place in our lives for contemplation and adoration, after all, “Who among the gods is like you, Yahweh? Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11 tniv) But that’s not the full picture.
In this verse we can contemplate God’s holiness and glory in abstract terms, but the reference to “working wonders” or “performing impossibilities” should cause us to reflect upon our experiences of God. What wonders does the text refer to? Has God really intervened in the natural order of things, performing impossible acts? If He has, we must worship Him. Much as we applaud a musician whose skill inspires us, or an athlete whose performance we find amazing, we must worship this God of Wonders.
Yet, if this is so, why is it so easy for our worship services to become generic? If we sang the same songs on the first Sunday of every month for a year, how long do you think it would take people to notice? Exodus 15:11 follows the description of God’s rescue, His mighty works. When we look at the Psalms we find the majority of them providing a context for their worship. They’re psalms questioning their misfortune, or praising God for His role in their lives.
Many of the psalms’ headings, which are not original or inspired, provide information about the circumstances in which they were written (eg. Ps 59, 60, 63). Yet our worship can often take place in a vacuum, overlooking the events we experience outside of the designated “worship hour”. We rightly sing many songs about the cross, and loving Jesus but we struggle to verbalise the reasons why. I believe that we need more spontaneity in our personal worship as well as when we come together. Our worship needs to interact with our lives, celebrating God’s victories, voicing our questions, and presenting our needs. We should praise and thank God for mighty works He actually performs in our lives, not just generic words.
- What does the term “personal worship” mean to you? Do you ever interrupt a day to sing a song or offer a prayer?
- Ex 15:11 alludes to both contemplative and celebratory worship. I assume that both are equally acceptable to God, but which do you find more meaningful?
- Do you have any suggestions how we can allow our worship services to better interact with the events and reality of our lives?