Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wonder About Worship: Part 3

Another way we can expand our concept of worship is by being creative. The book of Genesis tells us that humanity was created in the image of God. This means many things. One of the qualities that God placed within us was the ability to be creative. In the strictest sense of the word only God can create, which means to make something out of nothing. But God has given to humanity the ability to manipulate what is available in such a way as to “create” something new and different. This ability to create has been widely celebrated in the fields of music and art. It has also produced such things as automobiles, airplanes, computers, cell phones and microchips. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have masterfully demonstrated our capacity to create whole new worlds through literature. The field of science has led the way in creating new understanding of how our world works and how we can use that information to our advantage. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Unfortunately we often miss the worship aspect of creativity.

It is not just in the end product that worship occurs, but in the creative process itself. For example we are quick to identify certain songs as “worship songs” yet we fail to see that the creation of the song itself is an act of worship. If we will intentionally do it, this can be applied to any creative act. When a painter takes an empty canvas and transforms it into a beautify piece of art, that can be an act of worship. When a carpenter takes some rough pieces of wood and fashions them into a table or chair, that can be an act of worship. When a scientist explores the complexities of our physical world, that too can be an act of worship.

Lest you think that this is just fanciful thinking, let me remind you of the creation of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. In order to give the people of Israel a tangible focus for their worship, God gave Moses instructions for creating the Tabernacle; a movable place of worship. As a part of this task God gave certain people specific practical abilities. He gave some the ability to weave and some the ability to work in metals and some the ability to work with wood. Each of these craftsmen was given a specific part of the Tabernacle to create. By using these creative talents they were worshipping God long before the Tabernacle took on its final form.

What makes a creative act an act of worship is the attitude of the person’s heart. Three bricklayers were working side by side on a wall. A stranger walked up to the first worker and inquired about what he was doing. I’m laying brick was the gruff response. Moving to the second man the stranger again asked his question. I’m building a wall, came the reply. Finally he asked the third man what he was doing. I’m building a great cathedral to the glory of God.

God has given to all of humanity the ability to be creative. We are not all creative in the same way, but we are all creative. God has also given us the freedom to use our creativity in whatever way we like. Many use their creativity to bring glory to themselves or to further some cause. Those who understand the true nature of worship use their creativity to bring glory to God. It is our attitude that makes the different. Paul puts it clearly in Colossians 3:17. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” To do something in Jesus name is to submit it to his authority. It requires that we offer our action to Jesus to do with it as he pleases. We are to do this not grudgingly, like slaves who have no choice, but willingly as grateful servants who celebrate the goodness of God in our lives.

Worshiping God with our creativity does not mean that everything we do is religious. Just putting a Bible verse on something or adding God to the lyrics does not make something a worthy offering of worship. A great piece of art may be a more worthy offering than a thousand religious paintings of poor quality. A great piece of literature may be a more worthy offering of worship than a thousand trite religious novels. It is not my intention to say what constitutes great art or music or literature. My point is that making something religious does not automatically make it good. In fact God is not pleased with religious window dressing. He is far more concerned about the condition of the heart. “The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)  

In what creative way can you worship Christ today?

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