Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi
The last four decades have brought jubilant worship in churches to the fore, and that is in both traditional and newer churches. They have created a ‘Praise and Worship’ time. Whether it takes 10 minutes or an hour, there is something unsettling for me in the phrase.
The service leader or singer will say, “Let us now enter a time of praise and worship,” or “Let us worship.” Why is it ‘a time’? Does it fairly represent how the Bible depicts worship?
Words carry meaning and over time meaning influences practice. That is precisely my fear – a time of worship or praise that may forget the eternity and lifestyle of worship.
Worse! If praise and worship is what we do at the beginning of the service, what do we do the rest of the service?
When I depart my home, I have the desire for corporate praise and worship, and of course for fellowship, and that is what I come for to church.
I do this through songs and prayers and the offertory and the Word of God. Sunday is for corporate worship, which spills over into my other days and activities.
A peep into heaven helps us comprehend worship, as God desires it to be. Our text from the Book of Revelation speaks of worship. The first reality to confront us is the unapproachable and indescribable Presence of God.
John saw Someone on the Throne but his description of Him is too muted for a curious, inquiring mind! The One on the Throne had the appearance of precious jewellery stones! John describes the Throne’s environs, not Him! We are left wondering about His features and what He looked like.
Clearly the God we come to worship is not our buddy. He is beyond human imagination, to be approached with awe and hallelujahs! Furthermore, John was in the Spirit when he came into the divine Presence. As Jesus says earlier, we access and worship Him only in the Spirit, not through human skill or formulas.
Worship in the Spirit is not about tongues, as some hastily conclude, but that the Holy Spirit alone can move us to worship (and to pray). He will work as He pleases, even through who we are or through our skills.
The Spirit also led John to see what preoccupies the citizens of heaven that dwell in God’s presence.
These are the four “living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders”.
The living creatures never cease to sing God’s praises saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the One that sits on the Throne. The twenty-four elders respond falling down and casting down their crowns before the Ancient of Days.
We are left to deduce that if the living creatures worship God “day and night,” then those who respond each time they hear the living creatures worship, definitely worship the LORD ‘day and night’.
So, worship is not optional. If the dwellers of heaven involuntarily respond in worship, how much more for us when we come into His presence.
We fail to worship because we do not see Him as He is. When the Holy Spirit reveals Him to us in church, our worship too is instantaneous and spontaneous.
Whenever the Balokole of the East African Revival met they shared about what the LORD Jesus was doing in their lives.
They reflected on God’s mercy and on Jesus’ salvation, and they sang the “Tukutendereza Yesu” hymn. Our Attitude must be an insatiable hunger for worship.
We must long for our community worship such that missing it becomes unbearable!
Additionally, worship has neither geographical nor vocational boundaries.
We must worship in our homes no less than in church, at work as we do along the road, and in all our conversations and conduct. When the Spirit of God is in control, He makes the worship of God our lifestyle.
Finally, the four living creatures represent worship as a vocation.
The courage of a lion, the strength of an ox, the intelligence of a man and the elevation of an eagle all show we must worship the LORD with our courage, our strength, our intelligence, and our status.
This summarises the commandment of Jesus Christ to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
Worship in the Spirit is a vocation. It flows from within the heart, consumes the soul with the warmth of the God we worship, flows into all our conduct and work, and preoccupies our intellect.
We must make worship our vocation to escape idolatry that worships what God has given us. How is your worship today?
The author is the Vice Chancellor, UCU