I’m already starting to dread how many Christmas dinners I’m going to have to eat this holiday season. I always overdue it; but how couldn’t I? The great food, connections with many different family members, I can’t help but jump right in.
If you’ve attended Lawson for long you’ve probably heard me use the family dinner metaphor. The idea that our church gathering is really more like a family dinner then it is a ceremony. Over the holidays you’re going to laugh, cry, raise your voice, raise your glass and all of the crazy things we do when we are with the ones we love. The same should be said for our church gatherings.
It’s easy for us to miss the point of getting together though. Take a minute to reflect on the experiences you will have over the holidays with your family. I’m positive they will be complex, drastically different and always changing. The same can be said for our church experience.
Corporate praise and worship is one of those times that have many experiences attached to it. Much like our family dinner, none of the experiences are better than the other, and not all are more appropriate. They are just different experiences that each of us have personally in the moments. We should be free to have the same flexibility we have during family time as we do in worship.
During a moment of Praise the worship experience is usually lighthearted, with joy and celebration. Much like when your funny Uncle tells a few jokes at the table. When you’re in the mode of worship your experience will be one of awe, humility and adoration. Much like when Dad says grace before the meal, or Grandpa asks everyone around the table to say what they are thankful for. Then there are times when you just sit back and revere the ones you love. I often find myself watching my boys with their family and feel blessed. I’m taken back by God’s provision, grace and love that has allowed me such a great family. Sometimes I can’t put it in words, but in the moment I’m lost in the greatness of God’s provision, love and grace for my family. The same can be said in worship. There are moments when we are in awe of God’s presence. We reverently stand and commune with His Spirit.
Now imagine if you stood back reverently while your uncle told jokes? Or imagine laughing and falling off your chair during grace?
Praise and Worship, much like our family experiences, is diverse. There are moments where we will be lost in God’s goodness, and there will be moments where we are light heartedly enjoying our family time. None of these are more important than the other. In fact, I’d say that we need them all to be healthy.
My friend Paul Walker talked about worship like this:
“Asking people to be in a certain state of mind before “God can work” amounts to paganism and religion of the worst kind. It reduces God to living in a manmade building, who only responds to us if we work hard enough to please God. Jesus teaches us that God works through every emotion (i.e. Jesus wept), situation, and career. There is no part of our lives that is not spiritual. Everything is spiritual. God steps out of heaven in Christ, to subvert every manmade system of salvation and works based righteousness and replace it with himself.”
So enjoy your family, and all of the experiences. Don’t be caught up in how you should be acting. God is gracious, and wants you to be present. Love God, love your family and serve one another in humility and grace. You don’t have to act a certain way for your family to love and feed you. And you don’t have to act a certain way to spend time with your heavenly Father. The truth is you might act wrong, but God won’t act differently, and neither will your family. Just enjoy the time you have with both.