November 2009 - Vol. 34

Welcome to Heaven!
Our worship of God transforms time and space, making them sacred

A scriptural orientation to worship, Part I

by Mike Shaughnessy  


One thing have I asked of the Lord, 
that will I seek after; 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord 
all the days of my life, 
to behold the beauty of the Lord, 
and to inquire in his temple. 
- Psalm 27:41
We have access to heaven now 
The hustle and bustle of traffic and pedestrians all busy with their affairs is non-stop in the modern world. In the middle of it all, a group of university students gather to participate in a prayer meeting, a time of joy-filled singing and praying. When they begin their time of worship, they are in a building near campus, but they don't remain there very long. 

The very act of worship transforms time and space, making them sacred. Through worship we are lifted out of the ordinary, the common, the daily flow of events and places and enter the presence of God. We cross over the threshold of the temple of God and stand in the presence of the angels and saints surrounding the throne crying by day and by night to the Lord: "Holy, you are holy." We, who know God the Father, are redeemed by his Son and are filled with the Holy Spirit, have access to heaven now. It won't just happen when we die, but happens every time we enter the throne room of God by setting apart time and space to pray. 

Scripture teaches us that the various ways we pray, both individually and corporately, are meant to help us live in the heavenly reality now. They remind us, that the most fundamental event now taking place is not what we see and hear on the street, on the television, or on our favorite website; no, it is taking place in a dimension parallel to this. Christian worship is built on that reality, a reality expressed in the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12: 

You have come to Mount Zion, 
to the city of the living God, 
the heavenly Jerusalem, 
with myriads of angels round the throne! 
           - Hebrews 12:22
Worship and worthship 
What is worship? The word "worship" comes from the Old English word "weorthscipe". Thus, to worship means to acknowledge the value or worth of something. When we worship God we are saying something about his worth. 

What can or should we say about God's worth? Some songs we sing help us here: "Lord you are more precious than silver…" which compares the worth of God with things normally held in high esteem. The song with the words "You alone are holy, you alone O Lord; you alone are worthy, Lamb of God," speaks of God's worth without comparison. It simply says God alone is worthy of divine worship. The song with the words "My King and my all, My Lord and  my all, My God and my all, My life, my all, my God," expresses that we know God deserves all of our life. 

In the Book of Revelation, John describes his vision of the throne room of God where, day and night, they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelations 4:8). God, the Most High, is ceaselessly being worshipped, ceaselessly being honored as worthy. The angels and the saints are before his throne saying: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you have created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelations 4:11). 

In those verses from Revelations we see God is worthy of worship because of what he has done. He created all things. He is the ultimate source of all that is. It is amazing that he who did not need us, created us. He created beings like himself who can love, reason, and appreciate truth and beauty. And then, when we rejected what is good and true and beautiful, he made a way for us to be more than we ever were, a way for us to be united to him and to share in his divinity. 

But God is worthy of worship not just because of what he has done, but because of who he is. Even if he had not created nor redeemed us, he would be worthy of worship. He is all good, all loving, all just, all beautiful. He is almighty, all knowing, infinite, and eternal. Another way of saying this is: God is holy. 

Saying God is holy doesn't just mean that he is righteous and good. That God is holy means he is set apart from all other things. He is wholly other. There is none who compares with him. He is above time and space. They do not confine or limit him. He is above all power and all wisdom. Yes, the Lord is worthy. 

That the Lord is worthy of worship because of what he has done and who he is can be seen in many of the psalms the original scriptural songs of worship to the Lord. 

In Psalm 145 David praises God because of who he is and for what he has done: 

I will extol you, my God and King, 
and bless your name for ever and ever. 
Every day I will bless you, 
and praise your name for ever and ever. 
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, 
and his greatness is unsearchable. 
One generation shall laud your works to another, 
and shall declare your mighty acts. 
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, 
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 
Men shall proclaim the might of your terrible acts, 
and I will declare your greatness. 
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness, 
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
David goes on for 40 lines, noting that God is worthy because of who he is: because he is great, because he is majestic and powerful, because he has dominion over all, because he is good and just, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, because he is compassionate, faithful and kind. 

He says God is worthy because of what he has done: his wondrous works, his awesome acts, his mighty deeds, for upholding the falling, giving us food, being near to us, fulfilling our desires, hearing our cry and saving us. Like David we should say: "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised," and when we participate in a time of worship we, like David can express why he is worthy as we enter into the courts of the Lord: 

Holy, O holy, Lord God Almighty 
Worthy O worthy glorious Prince of Peace 
We bring our lives to you, a sacrifice to you 
We stand in awe before your holy name. 
All glory and honor and praise 
Be to the Ancient of Days. 
We praise you we worship you 
Our Lord and our King on high.
[Mike Shaughnessy is an elder in The Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people.].
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