An Element of Joy
By Jennifer Levin
"Phrases like Worship Service or Service of Worship are tautologies. To worship God means to serve him. Basically, there are two ways to do it. One way is to do things for him that he needs to have done - run errands for him, carry messages for him, fight on his side, feed his lambs, and so on. The other way is to do things for him that you need to do - sing songs for him, create beautiful things for him, give things up for him, tell him what’s on your mind and in your heart, in general rejoice in him, and make a fool of yourself for him the way lovers have always made fools of themselves for the one they love.
A Quaker Meeting, a Pontifical High Mass, the Family Service at First Presbyterian, a Holy Roller Happening - unless there is an element of joy and foolishness in the proceedings, the time would be better spent doing something useful."
~ Frederick Buechner
As I consider the theme of where Christ is real, especially regarding worship, I find myself drawn to consider the lives of the saints in the past, both near and now distant, who have had a profound impact on my own life. Perusing my bookshelf, I see Adoniram Judson, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, William Booth, Loren Cunningham, Amy Carmichael, and many other heroes of the faith, even a book by my dad, Steve McCormick. They lived during different times, in far- flung places, were members of varied denominations, sang different songs.
In Frederick Buechner’s definition of worship (see the quote above), from his delightful book Wishful Thinking - A Seeker’s ABC, I see how this seemingly disparate group of folks has profoundly shaped my own walk with Jesus. They lived out their worship with radical faith, obedience, and joy. Some saw the results of their labor while still here on earth and some had to wait for eternity. All have inspired me towards deeper devotion, trusting obedience, and passionate service.
Among other things, I’m a singer and musician. Yet even I sometimes think we place more importance on that form (and performers) of worship than we ought. There are as many unique, creative expressions of worship as there are people in the world. How do I experience the reality of Christ in my singing and playing? Primarily, I try to keep Him central to the whole business. Songs I find powerful vary, some old, some new, but to me the reason for their power is nonnegotiable: the character of God, His works and ways. Singing those truths bring His presence.
Why? Honestly, I think that’s more to do with getting us realigned to the reality that He is always with us. Proclaiming who He is opens our eyes and reminds us, “Hey, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are here!” Not only do truths about God remind us that He is with us, they put our own situations in perspective. Over and over, I enter a worship time, whether corporate or personal, feeling overwhelmed and unable to see the forest for the trees, if you will. Over and over, I leave those moments of looking into Jesus’ face and giving voice to His attributes, having gained new hope, fresh perspective on life with all its challenges, and more thankful for who He is.
And joy...JOY! If you’ve been in a room with me while I worship you know I get kinda loud. I love Buechner’s reminder that love makes us look a little foolish sometimes. I think there’s nothing better than a great big room full of people singing and shouting their hearts out to Jesus. Worshiping regardless of what baggage they brought with them that day. Regardless of how they feel or sound. With regard for the One who is worthy of our worship. So, when do I experience the reality of Christ in worship? When I’m busy doing His work here on earth, partnering with Him in building His kingdom. When I’m using the gifts He’s given me to turn the spotlight onto His character. When I’m proclaiming who He is.