Recently, my wife Valere and I talked about the times when we most truly experienced the power of worship and felt closest to God. The most moving times, we recalled, were worship without spoken words. The key was not silence per se, but our awareness of both the beyondness and nearness of the One who created the universe – and us.
Psalm 8, regarded by some as “the creation story set to music,” is the prayer and testimony of an ancient Hebrew overwhelmed by the wonders of the earth and universe beyond. Yet, his “universe” was so much tinier than ours, and ours is so much less than what astronomers say lies beyond our telescopes and unmanned “explorers.”
Some years ago on a cruise ship in the South China Sea, the captain ordered the engines stopped and most lights extinguished for a few minutes. Looking up, we saw the sky explode into an infinitude of blinking points of light, more ancient than our planet, our solar system, and our galaxy. As I gazed upwards, I remembered the words of the Psalmist’s prayer: “O Lord, our
Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth”
(8:1). PRAISE THE LORD!
Poetically speaking, God’s creation praises him with- out words. The sounds of the earth, even the babbling of babes, are hymns to his greatness. In fact, God uses even the weak and silent to proclaim his mighty power. But even if the voices of all living beings were silenced, the praise of the Creator is silent only to those who neither see nor hear.
The psalm and our instinct to worship may be ignited by the glories of God’s creation, but his creation is not the object of our worship, but simply the impetus to glorify Him. Pagans celebrated – and celebrate still – the glories of the created world, but the Psalmist was led to glorify the Creator. It is then, says J.R.P. Sclater, that we recognize that “The God who is beyond is also
The God who designed and brought into being the vast universe is as close to us as the breaths we take.
The glory of God, however, confronts us and the Psalmist with one of life’s basic questions: “what is man
SPI RI T
that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that
thou dost care for him?”
(8:4). Pascal muses: “What a
mystery, then, is man! What a novelty, what a monster,
what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction; what
prodigy! A judge of all things, stupid worm of the earth;
depository of truth, cloaca* of uncertainty and error;
glory and refuse of the universe!”
So, just who and what were we created to be? WHOSE WORLD IS THIS?
Despite the immeasurable divide between the Creator and human beings, we believe that we all are made in the image of God. There is no creation or creature closer to God than human beings: “Yet thou has
made him little less than God and dost crown him with
glory and honor”
(8:5). The glory and honor of these human beings is bound with the role we are to play in his universe – as stewards of his creation. We are given the world to manage and nurture, but not to own! All of us will be judged on the basis of what we have done – and not done – with the glory of God’s magnificent handiwork.
Many “go to church,” but do not worship. If we are not confronted with the living God, might it be that we come to be spiritually entertained – for that is not the same as worship, nor the same as opening yourself to God and experiencing his presence.
In a radio broadcast, Anglican Archbishop William Temple said: “I am disposed to begin by making what
many people will feel to be an outrageous statement.
This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse
by one thing only, and that is worship. For to worship
is to quicken the conscience of the holiness of God,
to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the mind
by the beauty of God, to open our heart to the love of
God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
I think he was right, but is the worship he describes what you and I experience when we “go to church”? And if not, why not?
*(cloaca: a sewer or receptacle of moral filth).