Altar Call Ė Opelika-Auburn News
April 26, 2015
Worship at its best is a celebration
††††††††† Today, God willing, I will be in Demopolis, Alabama, enjoying a homecoming celebration with the good people of the First United Methodist Church. I was their pastor forty years ago.
It will be good to be back in Marengo County sharing exciting worship, spirited singing and good food with some fine folks. They plan to open a time capsule buried 50 years ago, and hopefully I can keep most of them awake with a decent sermon. †
††††††††† Celebrating is good for the body and the soul. I like to celebrate. I learned how from my Mama. She loved birthday parties. Every time anyone in our family had a birthday, we had a party. Mama would bake a cake, light some candles and dish up some ice cream. Usually we would find in the cake a nickel or a dime wrapped in wax paper. Celebrating birthdays was part of the rich legacy Mama left her children. Even in her nineties, Mama could remember the birthdays of a hundred family members and friends.
††††††††† Godís people have always been celebrative people. Before the time of Jesus the Israelites gathered in joyful festivals of worship to celebrate the mighty deeds of God. Christians learned how to celebrate from their Jewish ancestors.
We celebrate Godís mercies. Worship at its best is a celebration of the grace of God. We give thanks that God loves us in spite of our sins. We give thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus, and for the salvation made possible by his death and resurrection. We give thanks for the Lordís comforting presence and his guiding hand in the daily struggles of our lives.
††††††††† Often in painful repentance we seek His forgiveness for our sins. We feel the joy of being forgiven and restored to fellowship with our Lord. Tears of joy flow down our cheeks as sing, ďThank you, Lord, for saving my soul; thank you, Lord, for making me whole.Ē
††††††††† It is refreshing to see the golden thread of celebration throughout the Bible. For example God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to inspire the Israelites to finish the temple. Ezra, another prophet, described the celebration that followed the completion of the temple.
First, with great joy, the people dedicated the temple to God. Then there was a one-day observance of Passover, a remembrance of Godís deliverance from slavery in Egypt. That was followed by a weeklong Festival of Unleavened Bread in preparation for which the people threw away all their leaven since it symbolized sin. Throwing out the leaven was a sign of repentance.
††††††††† All of this was a joyous experience in lively worship. With glad and grateful hearts the people lifted their voices to praise the Lord for his unfailing mercy. The Bibleís Book of Psalms, though written years later, helps us understand the songs Godís people used in their worship celebrations.
††††††††† When Christians gather for worship we have even more reason to celebrate! Our joy should know no bounds. In the fullness of time God sent his Son to die for us, ďwhile we were yet sinners.Ē We were shown great mercy!
††††††††† On the Third Day God raised our Savior from the grave. Because He lives, we too shall live. We shall suffer, and we shall die, but we have within our breasts the glorious hope of the resurrection! Because of Godís great mercy, we may have peace with God in this world and the assurance of a home in heaven in the next life. There we shall share the joyous presence of the living Christ for all eternity!
††††††††† Once we embrace this good news, worship can never be dull and boring again! The awareness of Godís mercy is reason enough to make worship a lively celebration every Sunday. Pastors should be ashamed to offer people humdrum worship. Every pastorís message should vibrate with passion and enthusiasm that says to his people, ďHave I got good news for you!Ē
††††††††† Authentic worship should begin with music that stirs the soul, not tedious music that sounds like a funeral dirge. The musical prelude to worship should not cause people to wonder when they are going to bring in the body of the deceased.
††††††††† Though the early Christians were often persecuted, they left us a great legacy. They knew how to celebrate in worship! With so proud a legacy, we dare not offer people a watered down, milk toast kind of unexciting worship. Genuine worship that celebrates the mercy of God will move people to get on their knees in thankful adoration. †+ †+ †+