TO CHEW ON: “I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1
Today is Sunday, the day many of us have a habit of attending church. Can you, can I honestly say we're glad to go—that we can’t wait to get there? That’s the question that came to me this morning as I read Psalm 122:1.
Whenever the assigned Bible reading is one of the Songs of Ascent from the Psalms (and Psalms 121 and 122 are such songs), I find myself reaching for Eugene Peterson’s excellent A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It’s a book that richly elaborates on these songs and psalms that were part of the Israelites’ pilgrimages to Jerusalem to commemorate the feasts.
Peterson says some profound things about worship in the chapter on Psalm 122. He explains worship as one activity Christians do that is voluntary: “… worship is not forced. Everyone who worships does so because he wants to” - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience, p. 50.
Peterson points out three items in Psalm 122 that worship does for us.
1. “Worship gives us a workable structure for life” - p. 51 (Psalm 122:3,4).
For the Israelites keeping Sabbath and celebrating the feasts became the bones of the year. Other activities, even work, were subservient to these observances. I wonder, do we allow worship to help us set priorities?
2. “Worship nurtures our need to be in relationship with God” - p. 53 (Psalm 122:4).
God is with us through trouble and good times, when we mess up and when we do good. Times of worship give us space to express our thanks. “A Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot” - Augustine (quoted p. 53).
3. In worship “…our attention is centered on the decisions of God” - p. 54 (Psalm 122:5).
“Every time we worship our minds are informed, our memories refreshed with the judgments of God, we are familiarized with what God says, what he has decided is the way he is working out our salvation” - p. 55.
This psalm and Mr. Peterson’s thoughts on worship have prompted me to list some of the reasons I gladly go into the “house of the Lord":
* I get encouraged by the numbers of people—and their variety—who are my brothers and sisters in the faith.
* The songs and message of a church service often provide a course correction for what’s happening in my life, for the decisions I’m considering, the attitudes I’m nurturing.
* The songs, scriptures and talks remind me of aspects of God that I may have forgotten about.
* Body life—visiting with friends and being on the prayer team—helps me feel connected to what God is doing as I hear about His work in others lives and agree in faith for His help for needs.
Are you glad to go to church? Why or why not?
PRAYER: Dear Father, voluntary worship—that’s what I want mind to be. Help me to deal with life clutter that gets in the way of my sincere, all-in worship. Amen.
MORE: More Peterson wisdom:
“… we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship” - Eugene Peterson, Op. Cit., p. 54.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.