No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the LORD. 16Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.” 1 Sam. 1:15-16 GNT
Are we presently missing important elements of worship in our churches? I speak of the genuine and sacred offering of ourselves as we worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who can object to pious and righteous talk? Soon the whole enterprise takes off like a magnificent balloon, rising on the strength of its own hot air, with marvelous descriptions of the Christian life, the abundant life, spirituality, and the like. The minister becomes a guru rather than a proclaimer. The balloon rises perhaps until the stratospheric air can no longer support it and so it bursts and falls ignominiously back to earth. Or it is like Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor’s new clothes? Everyone feels compelled to go along with the game until the naive little boy blurts out the truth: “But he’s naked!” Then all the pretense collapses.
But it is obvious to most that real worship and praise isn’t bursting forth from the average Catholic congregation during the opening hymn or song. We aren’t experiencing the jubilatio of St. Augustine’s communities. But we can! The next time we sing at Mass, let’s dare to really sing. Sing with all your heart and soul. Dare to open your mouth and praise God
I wonder what would happen if Tozer saw today’s church, if he would see the missing parts of worship restored. I can think of people here and there whose sacrifice seems significant, yet, I don’t know it is., or what really lies behind the sacrifice–or if it is really one.
I fear that for many of us, our worship is like Forde’s critique, that we are no more than a spiritual version of the Emperor’s new clothes. I fear that we will find there is nothing there, that my sermons have lifted people into a pious, blind life that seems to soar until it crashes. That the verses and choruses we sing are sung out of a love for music, and not without recognizing the presence of the One our voices praise.
We need to sing with all our heart and soul, and that doesn’t mean loudly, or with great power. It means all of it – much as Hannah does in the reading from 1 Samuel. To pour out the pain, the brokenness, the barrenness, to just let it flow out….
You see, praise comes from meeting God in that place, and letting Him raise you up. It means pouring out everything in our prayers, holding nothing back, to let God minister to us. Then our praises take on an other worldly quality, coming from our healed hearts and souls.
It doesn’t take courage as much as desperation.
But the result is glorious – for we come to depend on God in a way that cannot be created or maipulated by skilled planning, or the most incredible of organists, choirs, praise bands or soloists. Yet each, as they encounter a God who cares, adds their voices together–lifting the God who lifted us up.
And for every Hannah, we can then become be like Eli, who ministered to her, on the Lord’s behal
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “Hearing.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 137–38. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Talbot, John Michael. 2023. The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival, Berryville, ARK. Troubador For the Lord Publishing.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT
Each time we consent to a new light on our weakness and powerlessness, we are in a deeper place with Christ.… Christ in his passion is the greatest teacher of who God is. Sheer humility. Total selflessness. Absolute service. Unconditional love. The essential meaning of the Incarnation is that this love is totally available.
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter
Second, those who find that they are prompted to partake of it merely because of the order of the church or from habit, who, if wholly free to choose, would not come to it with good will and longing, also must not partake of the sacrament. As St. Augustine says, the sacrament seeks a hungry, thirsty, and desirous soul which yearns for it. But those who go only because of command or out of habit feel no desire or longing for it, but rather horror or dread, so that they would rather be away from it than near it. A person with a yearning heart does not wait for a command, nor is he moved by precept or habit. Such a man is driven by his need and his desire. He has his mind fixed only on the sacrament, which he desires.
Last week I was at a pastors’ conference with 200 plus peers of mine. Most of us were tired, emotionally drained, approaching or in burn-out. It’s the nature of ministry. Those who do it well, risk their health, including their mental health.
The planners of the conference had decided the theme would be SoulCare, providing it for our people, ensuring our families get it, and forcing ourselves to admit we need it, and then act on it. But the planners (I was one,) knew our pastors needed to get such needs out in the open – but also realized there would be reluctance and resistance against such baring of our souls.
There is a need to address this – as Keating explains. It is only as we see ourselves wounded and broken, do we really see Christ’s active care for us! The love that is there, to comfort us, to pick us up, to heal the wounds and cleanse us from sin… IT IS HERE–FOR HE IS HERE!
Brother Lawrence realize the same thing as Tozer quotes him. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are going to sin, and if sin and dwell among sinners, we will become wounded, and broken. That is why God planned from before the foundation of the world to be here with us…to rescue us, to deliver us.. to nourish us.
That brings us to Luther – and his words about the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar. We shouldn’t fell like we have to go because it is the rules. Never! We need to go because we need that intimate moment with God, as we eat the Body and bring the Blood of Christ Jesus. We need to desire this moment for where it brings us, deeper into a relationship with Him. This time of truly experiencing the God we come to know in the sacrament, the One who loves us.
The Lord’s Supper is where the spiritually broken learn to find hope and healing, as the Spirit ensures the promises that accompany it are communicated to us. It is where we find ourselves, weak and powerless, coming to realize we are welcome in the presence of God, that He shares every aspect of Himself with us., transforming us into His image. ( 2 Cor 3:16)
We need Him – as do our people.
So let us be encouraged to gather around the altar, and know our Lord ever more deeply, as He provides for us, as promised. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 277.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 171.