"The Wellspring of Desire"
If someone were to ask a group of people attending a worship service – if I were to ask you this morning, via some questionnaire or other – WHY are you here? What do you get out of this activity you call worship?
– we might get a variety of answers, from "I like the music" to "I dunno -- I've come to church my whole life long and wdn't know what else to do"
Some would be quick to give what we call a testimony to how they came to faith in Christ, but I suspect that it wd be hard to get people to articulate somthing that lies so deep in their hearts
It wd be frustrating to hem and haw and try to explain to someone else just what it is that draws us to a service of worship – just as it is frustrating to those who look on our behavior and are mystified as to why we do it, Sunday after Sunday, all through our lives. There is so much we could be doing, they think – what are you doing HERE?
Well, that's a good question – and it deserves a good answer. And I don't know that I've got an answer that will satisfy every questioner, but I think I've got at least the outline of an answer, & I thought I'd share it with you
1. The longer I live, the more I become convinced of the goodness of God – just like we say, "God is good – all the time/ All the time – God is good"
And "goodness" is important when we think about worship, for worship means, in old-fashioned English, "worth-ship" – to ascribe VALUE to something
In essence, what we do when we worship is to acknowledge that God is the greatest and best of all things, all beings, all causes and all effects
& since he is the best – since, in J's terms, "there is none good but God alone" – we are drawn to him, to just "see" him – or regard him, if you prefer, and to acknowledge that we have encountered the best there is
We are drawn to God's goodness as a moth is drawn to a candle -- We are fascinated by it, we feel fulfilled by getting close to it, it gives us hope – we're hoping that it will spill over into us, that we might share in his goodness
And so, some might think that GRATITUDE for all that God has given us is the basic thing going on in our worship – and to be sure, "Thanksgiving" is at the heart of all liturgy – but I think there's more to it than that
Someone once said that it is more important that heaven shd exist than that any of us shd get there – and I think that, even apart from the question of God's goodness "to us," the mere fact of his goodness still draws us
2. God is good; but more than this, God is "righteous"
Now that word "righteous" and its relative "righteousness" are difficult words, esp. in the NT
The same word translated as "righteous" is also used for "just"; the word for "righteousness" is also the word for "justice"; and when we talk of being "justified by faith" and being made "the righteousness of God," then we are in very tricky territory, indeed
Earthly questions of "justice" are mostly concerned with punishing the guilty and rewarding the worthy and with giving recompense to the injured -- But who among us will dare to say that we can stand before a just God and claim only what we have deserved?
For however good God may be, the fact is, WE AREN'T
We are the guilty who fear being punished
We are not worthy of any reward
Whatever is owed us for our injuries is less than what we owe God for the injury we have done him through our greedy and corrupt actions
If desiring to bask in God's goodness is a desire for this kind of justice, then "thank you very much," but let's be honest – most of us do NOT desire God – at least, we don't want him to be too picky about what he sees in us
But the "righteousness" talked about in the NT – the "righteousness of God" is not simple earthly justice -- It's something far more basic
"Righteousness" in the NT is always a relational thing
To be "righteous" means ME being in the Right Relationship w/God;
it means US being in the RR w/each other;
and it means the world -- or at least, MANKIND -- being in the RR w/ the rest of creation.
Perhaps a good translation of "righteousness" wd be "the rightness of things"
What we earnestly desire is to find the "Rightness of Things" -- for if everything were the way we feel in our hearts it SHD be, then there wd be no hunger, no misunderstandings between persons, no untimely deaths, no unrequited love, no war, no pollution, no cruel tricks or betrayals or snobbery or crime or hate or disease – and so on
Now, life as we know it is not like that – it falls short of that vision of the way things SHD be
and so do we – WE fall short of even what we admit to ourselves we ought to be
and the NT has a word for this, too – it's called "sin" -- and it infects the whole of creation
for "sin" (the word in Greek is hamartia) means, "to miss the mark," to fall short, to fail of one's promise – to wind up somehow as something other than what your heart desires, even when you've got exactly what you asked for
and we feel cheated
so we desire the R'ness of things – the goodness of God – and are drawn to it, like children with their noses pressed up to the glass toy case with all the Christmas goodies in it
3. And along came Jesus of Naz one day, and said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the rightness of things – for they SHALL BE SATISFIED
THAT is a tremendously important statement
that is a staggering promise
For take all that long list of stuff that didn't work out – that always interferes – death and war and hate and cruelty and hunger and all the rest of it: Jesus says he can fix it – bring the rightness we hunger for – the fulness of God's goodness – into our lives
To say such a thing wd require him to be one of three things
Either he is a lunatic, a raver, a nutjob worth no further consideration –
OR, he is a fraud, a bad man, an agent of evil, tempting us with what he cannot deliver –
OR, he is – as he said he was – the Son of God, vested with all the authority in hvn and earth to do what he says he can do: fix our broken lives -- and our broken world -- so that things DON'T have to "fall short" any more of what we desire them to be
Well, the whole thrust of the NT is that he is, indeed, sent from God to restore things to the rightness they share in the mind of their creator
For through his sacrifice on the cross, we have peace with God – forgiveness of our sins – and we who have surrendered to him share his own Right Relationship w/God the Father
Furthermore, we are bound together in his body, the Church, and by his Holy Spirit begin to experience reconciliation between and among ourselves, unity in him -- and the love he has for us begins to flow FROM us as well as TO us
A new age begins in the here and now with our faith in him
This is more than offering us "heaven" as some sort of consolation prize for missing out on the rightness of things in this life – this is more than "pie in the sky when you die, by and by"
No –heaven is merely the completion of what we are beginning to experience even now: the fulfillment of God's promise in our lives – making us what we SHD be, what we always WANTED to be, what we have desired with our deepest longings to be
What do we get out of worship – or at least, what do those who return again and again to worship get out of it?
Well, we come to meet God – to be in the presence of all that is right and good and holy and pure and loving – the best thing we could desire
And we come desiring to find the rightness of things that has somehow escaped us, but which we see is somehow in him
And when we come to trust in JC, then we come with thanksgiving, rejoicing that even now, we are beginning to experience the joys of heaven and the restoration of all things promised at the end of the Age -- when Xt returns to bring all things to their ultimate fulfillment
True, we don't always go away in an exalted mood – sometimes, things are just ordinary – sometimes, we don't feel good – sometimes, the preacher loses his way or the choir hits a clinker or it's too hot or too cold or somebody next to you kept talking to one's neighbor
We still live in the world where things tend not to work out every time, remember? That's okay –
But always, we come to meet God – and meeting him, are strengthened and moved just a little closer to where we SHD be – and we go away w/the promise that someday, we really shall have all that our hearts can rightly desire – really BE all that we wish we cd be now – really offer to God praises worthy of his goodness
for he will enable us to have, and to be, and to do all these things, in ever-increasing measure, for ever and ever. Amen.