“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flockunder his care” (Psalm 95:6-7a, NIV).
Throughout my Christian journey – before, during, and after my specific call to ministry and service as a local church pastor and Navy Chaplain– the most common way for me to hear and discern the voice of God is through the insights of other believers. The primary – and ultimate –source is the Bible. I know from conversations with other Christians that I am not alone in this experience: I am reading a verse or larger passage of Scripture with which I am extremely familiar when, suddenly and unexpectedly, I am filled with a new dimension of understanding and insight. The Holy Spirit never stops working in our lives when we surrender to Him whenever and wherever we open the text of God’s Word.
In addition to the Bible itself, I receive significant insights from devotional authors, theologians, Bible teachers, pastors, and Christians from all walks of life. I am particularly delighted when the source God uses to speak to me surprises me. Such was the case earlier in August when Ihappened to be “randomly” thumbing through the hymnal, Sing Joyfully. In this particular hymnal, there is an introduction written by Karen Burton Mains. The name immediately caught my attention, because I have used worship resources that she and her husband, David, used to publish annually. So, I began reading her introduction. Wow! What a meaningful perspective on the act of worship!
“Worship has been defined as being preoccupied with God. Yet how little Christians know about this kind of devout attention. Some can remember the mad obsession called ‘falling in love’ when the whereabouts, the thoughts, the actions of the beloved filled their minds. Some are often consumed for their children. Work, the planning and ordering of it, can control the worker so much that he or she becomes compulsive in its accomplishment. We humans are preoccupied with many things: successes and failures, the gaining or losing of possessions; the hurts and joys of living; but we are rarely preoccupied with God” (Sing Joyfully hymnal, p. 3). That pierces to the soul. It is so easy to be drawn into the facets of human life that she states outright – and many more not specifically enumerated – that we lose focus on Who needs to be our preoccupation. Even though this is too often our case, it is imperative that we remember the declaration of the psalmist: “Come, let us bow down in wor- ship!” (Psalm 95:6a).Fortunately, there is an antidote: “How then do we learn to becomes preoccupied with God? By cultivating intentionality. By deliberately turning our minds toward divine preoccupation. By developing worship habits and working on them. Intentional worship means a worshiper is not going to church expecting that worship will just happen; but intentionality means that a worshiper is going to church determined to make worship hap- pen – at least as far as he or she is able” (p. 3). Karen then expands some of the ways that intentional and participatory worship can be developed and prac- ticed. Paragraph after paragraph strikes deeply into the heart of the impact that entering into the presence of the Divine through worship has upon our soul. I invite and encourage you to take the time at some point in the near fu- ture to take a hymnal and read Karen’s introduction in its entirety (pages 3-6). I am convinced that you, too, will come away with a revitalized appreciation for all aspects of worship.
In closing, I cannot offer anything better than what Karen powerfully expresses: “For truly, one day, one eternal day, we will recognize that divine presence, we will kneel in awe, our hearts will sigh, will shout, ‘Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!’ We will weep for joy in the presence of God. We will become utterly preoccupied. We will adore. We will exalt. We will worship. And this time, this Sunday – every Sunday, in fact, Sunday after Sunday; we are preparing our souls, practicing for that Eternity when every day will be a Sabbath without end, for that day when we will know most assuredly, Christ is here!” (p. 6).
Note: Hope Publishing Company has granted permission to reprint and distribute Karen Main’s Introduction to the Sing Joyfully hymnal. A copy of the file in pdf format can be downloaded from the church website: Hymnal Introduction. Or contact the church office at (574) 223-3613 or email@example.com and request a paper copy, an e-file in pdf format, or both.