Worship the God of Light (Not of the Limelight).
Persistently needy, glommy people, people who must satiate their need for affirmation by demanding to be in the limelight, are children of God.
Even so, let’s be honest: they are awfully hard to be around.
That’s tough, because that’s exactly what they want: people around them offering chronic reassurance about how great and wonderful and praiseworthy they are.
If you don’t offer them what they crave, or worse, when you dole it out to someone else, you get a pout if you’re lucky.
If you’re unlucky, you get a tantrum.
With that in mind, now read these few selected biblical texts:
Exodus 34:14: “…you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
Psalm 150: “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
Hebrews 13:15: “Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
Sure seems like one needy deity.
A week or so ago, I received a great question: “Why do you think that God wants or needs to be worshiped?”
Looking at the verses above, one might figure that God suffers from extraordinarily low self-esteem, narcissistic tendencies, and a crazy-making need to control other people’s lives.
At first blush, that’s it. God is bent on persistent flattery, and throws a fit when the weekly hit isn’t forthcoming.
But that’s not really what it’s about.
Worship is about orienting those who worship.
As I’ve said before here and here and here (for starters), God is that in which or in whom we place our ultimate trust.
It’s what gets our time and our energy.
At its best, then, worship is the touchstone which reminds us, grounds us, centers us in our particular God, and gives us a collective chance to be grateful.
And it’s not such an alien idea.
Think, for example, of what we hear these days, these times of crazy hectic family schedules, about the importance of a family meal.
Numerous studies show us that regularly shared meal time develops stronger connections within the family and creates stronger, more resilient, happier, healthier individuals within the family.
Worship is like that.
It’s a corporate identifier and reminder-er and strengthener of who we are individually and collectively as followers of God.
So one could argue, for example, that regular pilgrimages to football stadiums are worship, or that setting aside times to watch particular TV shows (ahem) are worship.
Some even talk about going to Sunday Mass at, say, St. Mattress by the Old Oak Tree.
I get it.
The parallels are there.
But church-y worship is directed four ways: toward God, toward the immediate community, toward the world, and within.
God is named and thanked and praised; the community of God hears of the call and of the grace of God; this community is shooed out to serve the world; and God speaks to each of us, as individuals, as a reminder that we are each claimed, loved, sent, and welcomed back.
Worship, you see, is communal in the biggest and best sense of the word.
It’s about connection, relationship, service, welcome, centering, and a story that is our own but bigger than our own.
There are other texts, more texts than just those like I listed above, with a very different, um, point to them:
Amos 5: “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”
Micah 6: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Hosea 6:6: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Worship without connection to justice, righteousness, mercy, kindness, humility, love–all identified by way of knowledge of the God who defines each of those–is not empty: it’s offensive.
Worship, then, isn’t about God alone, because God isn’t about God alone.
It’s about God, and it’s also about the God’s people, God’s creatures, and God’s creation.
It is not about God being a self-obsessed insecure limelight monger.
It’s about the Lover of self-obsessed insecure limelight mongers, and the Lover of those who have a hard time with such people, and the Lover of those who suffer unrighteousness, and the Lover of the unrighteous, and the Lover of the ones who need mercy and the Lover of the unmerciful, and the One who redeems them all and sends them out and gathers them back in to say, “Welcome. Pull up a chair. Let’s eat together. You all fed? Great. Now go out, now bring some Light into the world that so often is shrouded, now go do some justice, and do some mercy, and do some kindness, the likes of which you heard and received here in worship. Then come on back next week and we’ll do it again.”
The Light, and it’s not lime, is on at a place of worship near you.
Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you.