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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reflections on "Reflections on the Psalms" - part 2

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4 ESV)

"I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.'" (C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)

C.S. Lewis believed that when the writer of Psalm 27 wrote that he wanted to "gaze upon the beauty of the Lord," he wasn't talking about an emotional experience... he was talking about the beautiful ceremonies that were performed at the temple. To that Psalmist, the ceremony and the "beauty of the Lord" were indistinguishable. Likewise, the boy who wrote the poem about the Easter eggs did not yet see the distinction between the treat and the religious event. On the other hand, as adults in the 21st century, we are accustomed to looking at the ceremony as one thing and the presence of God as something else. God is not the drumbeat or the lights or the smoke or the tune we're singing, we believe; it is perfectly possible to attend service and never "gaze upon the beauty of the Lord" (which, from our perspective, would probably be expressed more as "feeling the Spirit" or something like that).

Several times Jesus told His disciples that we were to approach Him as children. If a child doesn't see any difference between performing a ceremony for God and being in the presence of God, maybe we're looking at it the wrong way. I've been in church services myself lots of times when I didn't "feel" anything special. Horror of horrors... some of those times I was standing on the choir risers! Does that mean that God was not present? Of course not... God is always present. Now... if I don't "feel" the emotional urging to praise God during a particular service, does that mean I should not sing, clap, even jump or whatever? Let's assume that I sing and clap anyway. If I do so but never feel anything "spiritual" the whole time, does that mean that I didn't actually praise God? What if I come to service with a desire to worship the Lord, and then I participate in the service and enjoy it the same way I might enjoy a rock concert, never feeling anything that I would call "spiritual" but simply rejoicing and having a good time... did I mess up? Is it OK to rejoice just to rejoice in Jesus, without a specific "prompting" from the Holy Spirit?

Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen! God is present whether you "feel" Him or not, and when you join in worship with a congregation that has come together to honor God, whether you "feel" it or not, God is honored. What, are we supposed to feel bad if we enjoy the music? It's totally OK to taste the candy as long as you know that the reason it's there in the first place is because of the Resurrection. Don't misunderstand; I believe strongly that worship comes from the heart of the believer, and I MUCH prefer it when I can feel it coming from my heart. But there's no reason for any of us to feel like we have somehow failed to worship God if we don't get all mushy or something. We can express the Lord's "beauty" anyway, knowing in faith that we will feel it... if not today, next Sunday or the Sunday after that. Usually when I kiss my wife, my heart flutters. But if something's going on and I'm tired or sick or preoccupied and my heart doesn't flutter one time, I kiss her anyway, and I know it will flutter the next time, because I love her. Love God in worship, whether your emotions are there "this time" or not. God accepts your praise and worship regardless!

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