Fly Casual? Sure. Worship casual? Well...
Would you consider your worship casual? Is the way in which you go about worshiping God relaxed? Sort of a time to chill, not be too heavy. Just have a good time, stuff like that? Is the way you worship casual? Is it, to take words from the Directory of Publick worship a ” grave and seemly manner”, or is it more chill?
Pastor GW Fisher’s sermon from Sunday evening has been in my this week. The thing that has been sticking with me is a point he made about the nature of worship. Specifically, he looks at the casual style of worship so popular today, and suggesting that while the kids might be all right, a casual worship of God isn’t.
Most folks that I know who employ a laid back style or worship (I’m thinking of corporate prayers that begin with “Hey God… “, sermons that are more stand up than worship, etc.) go to one or two similar proof texts. They point out that God is a God of Mercy, and doesn’t desire that we sacrifice our personalities and they also point to the fact that the veil between God and Man has been torn (Matthew 27:51) – so the formality of OT worship is gone. Another popular idea is that our relationship to God is altered in such a way that we approach him as we would our natural father “Hey Abba” (Galatians 4:6).
While I wouldn’t dispute any of those passages, do any of them actually provide license for a casual worship in the larger context of Scripture as a whole? In the sermon, the argument that our intimate knowledge of God through Christ gives us license to worship in a casual manner is tested against instances against some of the Scriptures where God most intimately reveals Himself:
After God declares his mercy (for thousands) in Exodus 34 to Moses we read:
And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.” (Exodus 34:8-9 ESV)
Moses responds not by saying “Whew, well that’s great God. Say, I wanted to talk to you about my people…” and then continue to chit-chat with God in a common fashion, like a couple of guys sitting at a bar, but from a position of worship (the KJV paints him as lying down as one dead) he pleads with God.
But that’s Old Testament. What about how we respond to God now that Jesus is in the picture (as though God changed his mind about His holiness after the Incarnation)? Consider how the apostle John reacted to being with Christ in Revelation 1:17-19
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
John personally knew Jesus. He personally saw the love of Christ. He witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection. He heard with his ears when Jesus called God Abba. He meets Jesus in His glory & he doesn’t respond “Hey! Jesus! Awesome.”
Rather, he falls down like one dead.
In these examples, we see the response from men who met God in a very near sense. I’m not advocating that we fall down dead as soon as prayer starts, but if Christian worship is a gathering of the church, where God is to be worshiped with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29) then how do we move from Moses & John’s response on the one hand and get to a casual worship akin to a book club on the other?