Acts of Worship: Praise

Job 42:1-6

Job’s second response

42 Job answered the Lord:

2 I know you can do anything;
    no plan of yours can be opposed successfully.
3 You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?”
    I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand,
    wonders beyond my comprehension.
4 You said, “Listen and I will speak;
    I will question you and you will inform me.”
5 My ears had heard about you,
    but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore, I relent and find comfort
    on dust and ashes.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

There is a YouTube video that I love. It is from a comedian who talks about the importance of knowing your why and your purpose. He gives the example from one of his events where he asked a person in the audience (a music teacher) to sing Amazing Grace. The person sang the song with good execution and sounded great. Then, he told the man to sing it again, but this time to do so like a guy who had gone through problems, been to jail, and was just getting released. The man obliged singing a powerful, soulful version. The difference between the two was once he knew why he was singing it, he could bring it to life.

Knowing why we do something gives it meaning and purpose. Do you do the dishes out of a sense of duty or obligation or do you do the dishes out of love and affection for your partner or parent? Do you ask how someone is doing out of social necessity, or deep compassion for their well-being? Do you come to worship because your parents make, or you feel it is expected, or do you come because of your love for Jesus and your desire to worship God? The reason matters.

The book of Job is a story about a man, Job, struggling to remember the meaning and purpose behind his relationship to God. Job is going through a series of truly horrible events. He has lost his family, his wealth, everything, and he does not know why. His friends are counseling him that he must have done something to deserve this and that if he just repents he will be fine. Job resists their pleas. He has led a blameless life and does not have something to repent for. Instead he challenges God to appear that he might be judged. In the end, God appears, speaking out of a great whirlwind and reminds Job of who God is and who Job is in comparison to God. Confronted with God’s awesome wonder and splendor, Job has an epiphany which is what we read today. He recognizes the arrogance of his own demands and is reminded why it is that God is worthy of our worship and praise. Job repents of his hubris and relents.

The problem for Job in the story is being reminded why it is that we worship and praise God and why it is that we seek forgiveness from God. For the friends, praise and forgiveness are tied to penalties and rewards. They want Job to seek forgiveness so that he might not be penalized. They are focused on the wrong motivation. They think our praise and worship should come out of fear or hope. In their minds we praise God so that we can be spared bad things, or we praise God so that we can get good things. These are not compelling reasons for Job and I think we can understand why.

We all have a slightly different reasons for our praise and worship of God. There are hundreds, probably thousands of different recordings of “Amazing Grace” out there. Singers as far ranging as Elvis Presley and Ani DiFranco have recorded their own versions. The good versions do not simply try and replicate the technical notes of the song but come from the heart of the singer. Ani DiFranco’s version is markedly different than one sung in a church on Sunday. Everyone has a slightly different experience of God and a slightly different reason for why we praise and worship God.

Before we can begin to explore the other parts of worship we need to start with the reasons why we are here in the first place. Why is it that you think God is worthy of praise? What does your relationship with God look like? How have you experienced God in your life? You need to answer for yourself why are you here? Until you know why you are here, your praise and worship will be lacking.

It is my hope that the songs we have sung and will sing today help to capture some of the reasons why we are here. Some of us are here because of God’s amazing grace that we have experienced in our lives. We have made mistakes and yet God has loved us just the same. That love, and that grace has brought us closer to God and is the reason that we lift our voices in praise. Others have experience God’s presence stirring in the midst of creation. In the grandeur of a mountain, the stillness of a lake, the vastness of the ocean, the microscopic detail and beauty of a snowflake. All around us we have seen God’s greatness and we want to celebrate it.

I first experienced God in the beauty and majesty of creation, but if I am honest about why I worship God, it is probably better summed up by the song “You Are Mine” that we sang earlier today. As a quiet and shy child, I know the fear that comes from being alone. I know the uncertainty that comes from wondering if you are worthy of the attention of those around you. Where I have experienced God most deeply is in the acceptance I have found from God and from the church.

My love for God and my reason to worship God is founded on the fact that God first loved me, and that God loves everyone, even those who seem the least deserving, the sinners, the poor, the outcast. This is my why, this is why I am here to praise God, this is why I am pastor. I praise God for the love that God has shown to even an awkward geeky kid like me. I am a pastor to help extend that love to everyone because there are people right now who are hurting and need to know that God loves them. There are people who are lonely right now that need to know that God is with them. The reason I praise God is rooted in the reason that I want to serve God.

We all need to remember our whys. It can be easy to lose it in the routine of going to church every week where it becomes a habit and not a conscious choice. We can forget the why in the midst of distractions like sports and trips to the lake and the crazy busyness of work and life. What is your reason for being here? What is your reason for coming to praise and worship God? How are you rooting your actions in that why and how is it informing your worship?

Once we know our why we can lift our voices in praise. Once we remember how God has made a difference for us, we can worship God better. Like Job, once we have seen and heard of the wonder, the love, the grace of God, then we can join together, with all creation in praising the Lord. Amen

Questions to Ponder:

When have you felt closest to God?

What is your why for worshiping God?

As you thinking about that reason, how does that inform your practices and habits?

Prayer:

God of all creation, you have appeared to each of us in a myriad of ways. Help us to remember the all the ways you break into our lives and bless us. Be with us as we turn our hearts and minds to the worship of you. Help us to get past the distractions that keep us from worship. Help us to get past our own sense of self that makes it hard to see you. Open us up to your presence in our lives each and every day. Amen