Worship doesn’t invite God’s presence…it acknowledges it.  He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light that we may declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9).  The Father is seeking the kind of worshipers who worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23).  God initiates…we respond.

God’s revelation occurs when He offers us a glimpse of His activity, His will, His attributes, His judgment, His discipline, His comfort, His hope, and His promises.  Our response is the sometimes spontaneous and sometimes premeditated reply to that revelation…worship.

Theologian Richard Foster wrote, “Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.  Its central reality is found ‘in spirit and truth.’  It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit.  Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals.  We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit.”[1]

Occasionally we actually bump into God in our worship efforts.[2]  When this occurs we often arrogantly assume the encounter was based on what we sang, said, or did and how we sang, said, or did it.  When what we do or observe others doing seems to have worked, our usual response is to institutionalize and market it as a template in order to achieve the same result each time we gather.

Have we considered that God might be grieved by our arrogance or angered at our insolence when we implore Him each week to show up and show off?  We take credit for instigating God’s presence when in reality He started the conversation, was present long before we arrived, and has been waiting patiently for us to acknowledge Him.

When I was a child my family traveled each summer from Oklahoma to Tennessee for a couple of weeks of vacation with grandparents.  The 1200-mile round-trip in the 1960 station wagon seemed to take forever.  The length of the trip was minimized through the anticipation and excitement that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were expecting us.  As my grandparent’s house came into view we could always count on seeing my grandmother sitting in the porch swing expectantly waiting for us to arrive.  She had been there for hours.

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth stated that when people assemble in the house of God they are met with expectancy greater than their own.

[1] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1978).

[2] See Fr. Dominic Grassi, Bumping Into God: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999).

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