Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reasons to worship

I knew that I would look at my last post and say, ah ha! Somebody left a comment, who could it be? It could be me!

Today, in my three-hour Disciple Bible class that requires about the same amount of reading each week (3 hours), making six hours total, which is nearly an hour a day, which is a really sacrificial act, by the way, we were talking OT stuff starting with the ark of the covenant and moving on to all the sacrifices the ancient Hebrews were ordered to do. Do you feel a giant yawn coming on? But wait -- Back in those days, if God didn't like the way you were worshipping, he would just strike you down. Zap! and you were toast. He did this to Aaron's sons because they got too close to the ark or something.

Still, I thought all the reading we had to do was largely irrelevant to my life and the life of most modern people. In fact, I felt at the brink of self-pity in my feeling that the reading was so very long and tedious. And long. And boring. And then we were going to spend three hours talking about it!

But somehow, in the commentary about the reading, it morphed into what Jews think is important about worship, and understanding began to bloom.

At least three things make communal worship important: Remembrance. Atonement. and Thanksgiving. Not to mention being smack-dab in the middle of the body of Christ, if you're at a Christian service.

The sacrifices and feasts start to make sense when viewed in this light. It even makes sense why my family and I attend church. Remembrance. Atonement. and Thanksgiving. I see the light!

Jews place a great importance on remembering certain times in their history when God saved their butts from destruction. They celebrate the Passover and Hannukah to celebrate times of peril that they overcame.

They have a solemn observance of atonement, Yom Kippur. There is even a "scapegoat" that ceremonially used to take on all the sins of the people and got cast out into the desert. (You know my reaction: poor goat. I think casting out would be much worse than being sacrificed.) I hope they no longer do this; I don't think the other animal sacrifices have been made for eons anymore, so I guess the scapegoat is gone too.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in Jewish feasts of the harvest and is a theme that runs throughout worship.

So, since we are Judeo-Christian and founded on Jewish practices originally, every Christian service has some sort of structure, and usually some parts that are repetitive. The Catholics and Lutherans have more order, while Baptists have less. We Methodists have more or less, depending on the pastoral preference. (Go ahead and say it, we're wishy-washy.) Our pastor right now likes a lot of repetition, so we say the exact same Affirmation of Faith and Confession and Pardon each week, which makes the meaning wash out quite a bit for me. But the ritual serves to remind us of our history, allow us to confess and ask forgiveness, and be reunited with our Lord and savior.

And funny, I never tire of taking communion. That act is so imbued with meaning for me. It is taking in sustenance and the Holy Spirit all together, and the emotional and spiritual bounce I get from it is of great significance.

Then there's the music of worship, which draws us closer to God. You almost feel like you are singing along with all the Angels and all the billions of people who have gone on to the hereafter, at times, and your soul is lifted higher and higher. Music is clearly one of God's most potent languages.

The remembrance part of worship is also being reminded that we are God's people; God loves us; and we need to act like we are God's people! (Certainly not just in church!)

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