This week we’ll continue our This Is Us Lenten worship series with a focus on the value of worship. Have you ever stopped to consider why it’s important to worship . . . together? What kind of difference can corporate worship make in our lives? Why can’t we worship just the same on our own?
The thing to know about our scripture for this week is that it’s the classic passage of scripture that provides us with an outline for the way we are to worship. Granted, it is a bizarre passage, because it describes a vision that Isaiah has. Visions are like dreams, so they can be rife with symbolism, imagery, and all kinds of things that may not make much sense at first glance.
But the framework of Isaiah’s experience is what’s important — the way it flows from:
- Experiencing the greatness of God, to
- Praising God, to
- Confession, to
- Acknowledgement of our shortcomings and our own needs, to
- The experience of Grace and Forgiveness (or pardon as we might call it), to
- Challenge, the message of the day and the challenge within it, to
- The response of the congregation to that challenge, to
- Sending forth to live out that response in the world.
This is the pattern, or order, of worship we still use today. We may do it in different ways, of course, but it generally follows this same basic structure for the experience we have in our weekly worship.
In this passage, Isaiah experiences the vastness of the Lord, “His train fills the temple” . . . “Winged creatures that are praising God, “Holy, Holy, Holy, all of the earth is full of God’s glory . . .”
He also experiences his own sinfulness and his participation, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”
And then one of the creatures removes his sin, symbolizing forgiveness and pardon: “Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.” We then have the challenge, “Who should I send?” followed by Isaiah’s response, “ Here I am, Lord, send me.”
This passage of scripture prompts questions for all of us to ponder:
When Have you experienced the vastness of God?
How did you express your praise?
In acknowledging your own shortcomings and faults, when have you felt the grace of God lifting that burden from you?
How did that experience of grace and forgiveness feel?
How has God challenged you in Worship? In a sermon that speaks directly to your heart?
What was your response to that challenge?
How did you feel “sent forth” to do that work?
Understanding this structure and underpinning to our weekly worship makes this experience is so much more than just sitting in the pew, moving from thing to thing in the service, listening, singing, praying and then going to lunch. There’s something deep and profound to be had there for each of us if we are open to it — if we hone our awareness to notice and take it in.
But that’s just part of it. People ask all the time, Why is it so important to worship with others? Isn’t worshipping God on my own enough? Isn’t going to church more of a social thing?
Well, yes and no.
The experience of shared worship contains a lot of energy. There’s something about being in a sacred spaced that lifts us up to another level. Being together in a sacred space (remember, when Isaiah has his vision he is in the temple), as well as the energy of shared experience does matter. All of these things enhance and intensify the experience of worship for every person present. Putting it simply, they inspire awe.
When have you experienced a feeling of awe during worship? What was it that brought about that feeling? Have you noticed what you were doing or thinking when you felt this most deeply?
I look forward to exploring these questions with you this Sunday in our beautiful Sanctuary.
Grace and peace,
Isaiah 6:1-8 Common English Bible (CEB)
In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about. They shouted to each other, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces!
All the earth is filled with God’s glory!”
The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke.
I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”
Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”
Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”
I said, “I’m here; send me.”