Worshipping the one true God is man’s first, last and eternal order of business, his very source of life and joy. Through worship we honor and enjoy intimacy with the Source of all that is transcendentally true, good and beautiful. It is, as William Temple observed, “the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” (William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, p. 68)
In Temple’s poignant observation there is a truth that is not understood by many Christians – and completely lost on the skeptic who dares to mock God as insecure (Why does he need people standing around adoring him?) or describe heaven as a big yawn (Who wants to sit around saying “Holy, Holy, Holy” over and over again forever?): that is that as we worship we are transformed. The eyes of our understanding are cleansed. We begin to see Him as He is and are progressively drawn into His glory and are transfigured by it. (1 John 3: 2)
And while there will no doubt be countless other delights we will enjoy in the New Creation (1 Cor. 2:9), this intimacy with the Presence and experiencing its energizing and transformative power will be the greatest and most sublime of all eternity’s joys.
Understanding this, it’s evident that worship on this side of the veil is vital for us individually and corporately as the Church. And so how we do it (engaging heart, mind, soul and strength versus hands in pockets with attention drifting) is crucial. And what we say and sing – as well as how we present and perform our worship – are critically important as well.
Now a sea of ink – and tragically even some blood – has been spent thinking and working through these matters by people far more qualified than me (by corey at testsforge). My little contribution has to do with just one aspect of this issue about which I have heard little – at least in these days where the vast majority of western Christians have been influenced by a baptized form of dualism and a “this is not my home, I just a-passing through” type of Christianity. (For more on this please see my essay, Heaven is Important…But It’s Not the End of the World.) That is the relationship between the lyrics we sing and the Kingdom of God, by which I mean the present reign of Christ in the earth.
In Part 2 I will explore this in more detail.