Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Lewis: “Attempts at worship are often 99.9 percent failures”

October 2, 2015


“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” So begins Psalm 103, the psalm to which my “Fight Songs” sermon series takes us this Sunday. One thought I’ve had as I’ve studied the psalm is how impoverished our praise is in a typical worship service—nearly any worship service in my experience.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Reflections on the Psalms, doesn’t disagree. At all. In fact, one doubts he’d ever worshiped outside of some stodgy Anglican parish (not that they’re all stodgy!). Still, he says, we shouldn’t on this account lose heart. He writes:

For our “services” both in their conduct and in our power to participate, are merely attempts at worship; never fully successful, often 99.9 per cent failures, sometimes total failures. We are not riders but pupils in the riding school; for most of us the falls and bruises, the aching muscles and the severity of the exercise, far outweigh those few moments in which we were, to our own astonishment, actually galloping without terror and without disaster. To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God—drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.

Meanwhile of course we are merely, as Donne says, tuning our instruments. the tuning up of the orchestra can be itself delightful, but only to those who can in some measure, however little, anticipate the symphony. The Jewish sacrifices, and even our own most sacred rites, as they actually occur in human experience, are, like the tuning, promise, not performance. Hence, like the tuning, they may have in them much duty and little delight; or none. But the duty exists for the delight. When we carry out our “religious duties” we are like people digging channels in a waterless land, in order that when at last the water comes, it may find them ready. I mean, for the most part. There are happy moments, even now, when a trickle creeps along the dry beds; and happy souls to whom this happens often.[1]

1. C.S. Lewis, “Reflections on the Psalms,” in The Inspirational Writings of C.S. Lewis (New York: Inspirational Press, 1987), 180.

Sermon 01-18-15: “Basic Training, Part 2: Adoration”

January 27, 2015

Basic Training Series

What does it mean that the very first thing that Jesus teaches us to ask for in the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s name be hallowed? “Hallow” isn’t a word we use anymore, but as I say in this sermon, we all do it—whether we hallow God or something other than God. Jesus is telling us, among other things, that our priority in life is to praise, worship, and adore our heavenly Father. If this message is as challenging to you as it is to me, you’ll want to watch or read this sermon!

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:5-15

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

A few years after Lisa and I got married, we saved money and bought a house in Tucker, Georgia. We were about a quarter-mile from the railroad tracks that ran through town. On our first night in our new house—in the middle of the night, around 2:00 in the morning—we were awakened abruptly by the sound of the train blaring its horn as it crossed a major road near our house. We could feel and hear the windows shake as it went through town. The next night it woke us up again, and the night after that, and the night after that.

A couple of years later, a new neighbor moved in next door. I greeted him the morning after he moved in as he was on his way to work. “Oh, my gosh,” he said. “How do you sleep at night?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “That train! It came through at two in the morning. It felt like an earthquake! And that whistle blaring!” And I remembered, “Oh, yeah! The train! I forgot all about that train! I haven’t noticed it in years. Somewhere along the way I stopped hearing it, stopped feeling it. I got used to it.” By the time my next-door neighbor moved in, I’d probably only wake up if it didn’t go through town in the middle of the night, blaring its horn!

I’d gotten used to it. It became ordinary and commonplace. I stopped hearing it and feeling it.

What a fitting metaphor for the Lord’s Prayer! We live in a world in which people are desperately interested in spirituality and here, in this prayer, our Lord Jesus tells us how we can have the most profound spiritual experience of all. Yet I’m afraid that Jesus’ earth-shaking words have become so ordinary and commonplace. We’ve grown so used to these words, it’s as if we’ve stopped hearing them—and feeling them! Read the rest of this entry »