– Opelika-Auburn News
Will holy things
survive in our casual culture?
Our culture has become increasingly
casual. People seldom “dress up” to go out anymore. The church reflects this
change. Blue jeans have replaced suits and ties as the attire of choice in
I doubt that God is bothered by casual
clothes as some old timers may be. To be sure of this we have but to recall
what God told Samuel long ago, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the
Lord looks at the heart.” That being true we need not get heartburn about what
people wear to church.
However there may be more basic
questions to consider. As the worship experience becomes more and more casual,
are we at risk for losing a sense of the holy? Will the casual style slowly rob our children of
reverence for sacred places and sacred things?
In trying to answer these questions it
may be helpful to consider the biblical story of the “ark of the covenant.” The
ark was sacred to the Israelites but more than once it was taken from them by
their enemies. The story of David returning the ark to
insights into the nature of authentic worship.
David had reverence for holy things. The
lessons of Hebrew history were not lost on him. He understood the sacred place
of the ark of the covenant in Israelite worship.
David did not have the wisdom of Solomon, he did have the common sense to learn
from his mistakes. When his first attempt to move the ark failed, he took great
care to move it successfully the second time. No stone was left unturned. He
made sure the right people, the Levites, would carry the ark in the prescribed
manner, on their shoulders using poles that extended through the gold rings on
the ark. We can imagine David saying to the leaders of the Levites, “Don’t even
think about loading the ark on a wagon again!”
David prepared a special place for the
ark. It was a sacred symbol so it deserved a place of honor. It would not be stuck
in a corner somewhere and pulled out on special occasions. Having a designated
place elevated its significance to the Israelites.
The arrival of the ark called for a
celebration so David assembled all
What may we learn from all this?
First, it is wise to have reverence for
holy things in our houses of worship. While we may no longer designate a sacred
place for a historic relic like the ark of the covenant, we can consecrate a
special place for the communion table, the altar, the Bible, the baptismal font
and the cross. We can teach our children to share our reverence for holy things
in a holy place.
can choose not to eat spaghetti and play basketball in the same space used to
house the sacred symbols of our faith. Though the trend is to become “casual”
about everything, there may be a line beyond which we should not go.
Second, formal worship can be consistently
awesome when we allow the Holy Spirit to help us carefully plan worship
services. Casual worship can be tempered with historic liturgy that reminds us
of our spiritual heritage. While liturgies can become tedious, a simplistic
pattern of singing and preaching does not fully “connect” worshipers with the
living Christ who is the Head of His Body, the Church.
recitation of a creed may seem obsolete but it helps us Sunday after Sunday to
remember who we are and why we have gathered to worship. We may be cheating our
worshipers if we offer them a steady diet of “new” songs and deny them the benefit
of singing the great old hymns of the faith. Thankfully there are churches that
continue to offer excellent worship in both contemporary and traditional styles,
thus preserving reverence for the holy.
authentic worship will always help people hear God’s call to serve him in the
common life. David helped the people to “connect” the ark of the covenant with
daily living. True worship inspires us to “go forth” into the world to honor
Christ in all that we do.
worship is not an end in itself. And it is surely more than a “spectator sport”
where people come to admire gifted people performing on a stage. True worship
inspires reverence for the holy as well as love for God. It does more than make
us “feel good.” It motivates us to serve
God in deeds of love and mercy. Our praise of God should not end with the
benediction but so infuse our common life that everything we do becomes an act
of worship. + + +