“Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of [God]” (Foster). This is the premise and truth that Richard J. Foster begins with in his chapter on worship in “Celebration of Discipline.” Worship is more than singing songs, coming together and hearing God’s word read and taught. It is an activity of our heart and a posture that shapes our lives. Foster writes that scripture teaches this deeper significance of worship:
“A striking feature of worship in the Bible is the people gathered in what we could only call “holy expectancy.” They believed they would actually hear the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God…[t]hey were coming into the awful, glorious, gracious presence of the Living God. They gathered with anticipation, knowing that Christ was present among them and would teach them and touch them with his living power.” (Foster)
God’s people gathered to hear the very voice of God, and they expected to leave changed.
Gathering in worship is important. When we gather as a God’s people, with an expectancy of Christ’s presence, our gathering is transformed. Our spirits and minds are “lifted upward” (Foster). Foster admits there is psychology to this, but as people of faith we also know there is something more. When we witness the Spirit’s work in others lives, when we communally seek God, we share with one another in the greater and deeper call to connection with the very Body of Christ. We become one with Christ and one with one another.
But even when we are not able to gather collectively, we can still enter into a posture of worship that we can carry with us into communal spaces. As Foster stated, worship is simply responding to God’s love. You can do that as you lay in bed in the morning, wash the dishes, dig through piles of data or research or even as you wander through the aisle at the grocery store and marvel at the variety of items and brands there are to choose from. It can start with a simple act of “stilling” our thoughts and activities and allowing ourselves to focus on God’s goodness, God’s character or God’s gifts to us.
However, Foster reminds us that worship is a discipline. It can be learned and we can grow in our ability to worship God. He lists a handful of ways to pursue this growth: taking time to seek God quietly each day, exploring different types of worship, taking time to enter into corporate worship, allowing ourselves to unified through prayer and worship with others, learning to absorb distractions with graciousness and recognizing that worship is a sacrifice – a gift we give to God.
Exercise for today:
Set aside time to listen to a worship song. Before you begin, find a spot where you can focus, and shut off your other distractions. Dedicate the length of the song to thinking about who God is and the ways your life has been blessed and shaped by God. See if you can take that feeling of gratitude or hope that results with you out into the rest of the day. You may not be perfect at it at first, but give yourself time – it is a discipline after all.
Here are some songs to use if you need a suggestion:
“Psalm 34” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfW2mkkMTAg&list=RDMM&start_radio=1&rv=8kvFtXphmMU or Shane and Shane – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOzf0VrDNGU
“Voice of Blood” by Hildegard Von Bingen ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS28jyW1bLY
Baba Yatu, The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili by the Alex Boyé, BYU Men’s Chorus/ Philharmonic