Many people have expressed appreciation for the music in worship on November 10. It was very moving to be led by 66 voices and an 18-member orchestra. It was wonderful. I want to thank the many people who made it all happen. Oscar (on our facilities team) deserves a special shout out. It took some creative planning on his part (not to mention moving a lot of chairs and risers into place) to figure out how to fit one-quarter of the congregation onto the platform. Many people came here directly from work (and juggled kids after-school schedules and activities) to be a part of the early rehearsals on Wednesday evenings. Several people missed time with their conversation partners in English Conversation Hour and others juggled teaching responsibilities so they could sing with the choir. The time spent rehearsing, inviting (and inviting, and inviting) church members, friends, and neighbors to come to sing in worship easily adds up to hundreds of hours. But remembering all that God has done to save us (and anticipating all God will do when Jesus returns to make all things new) should inspire us to respond in extravagant ways – in ways that recognize and reflect God’s unimaginable love for us.
The music in worship was beautiful. But what spoke to me most was what was happening around all the music and rehearsals. One of the foundational passages about worship is found in Exodus 12 where Israel’s Passover celebration is established. The passage is all about worship. Ironically, it doesn’t mention music at all. The focus of worship in Ex 12 is that God’s people only exist because God has saved them and made them His own. The Hebrew root word for the assembly (the community gathered for worship) is the same as the Tent of Meeting (God’s presence with Israel). The worship of God’s people, especially the assembly – when we come together to worship – and God’s presence are connected in a unique way. This all points to a beautiful parallel for us who are in Christ.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Gathering to worship and God’s presence are deeply connected. When we look ahead at the final chapters of Revelation, to what worship will look like when Christ returns, we see the same connection. “The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev 21:3) The choir’s anthem on Sunday was based out of these final verses in Revelation.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates never be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Rev 22:21–26)
When God’s people gather for worship, it’s certainly intended for those who love God passionately and understand what God has done in Christ to save us and make us His own. But when we gather to worship, it is also for those who are on the edge of the community and aren’t sure if they belong (see Isa 56:1–8). Worship is designed to draw everyone to Christ: “Its gates will never be shut… the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into [the temple, which is the very presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb].” What moved me most on Sunday was seeing people lead in worship who haven’t helped lead before – and seeing people here worshiping who haven’t worshiped together with us before.
Most of us have favorite songs (favorite praise and worship songs or favorite hymns). When we sing the songs that we love most, we often experience an awareness of the power of worship. But the power of worship isn’t in the song or the music. Music is a gift from God that brings us together. It helps us express our heart and mind with one voice. When the people of God come together to remember – Jesus who came “for us and for our salvation” and anticipate the day when “for us and for our salvation… He will come again” – when we come together and realize Jesus is there in the midst of us, that’s when we experience the true power of worship.