(An Excerpt from The Carpenter and the Cradle, a Bible Study by Connie Cook)
(From Exodus 25:31-40: The Lampstand; and Matthew 6:9: The Lord’s Prayer)
“Our Father in heaven, let your name be kept holy” (Matthew 6:9b.).
I’ll admit it. I’m a TV talent show junkie (or I would be if I owned a TV. As it is, I’ll spend hours watching snatches of these contests on the Internet. I know if I had the opportunity, I’d be glued to these weekly dramas.).
But I’m not the only one. From the popularity of these shows, it’s a form of entertainment that few can resist. Their almost-universal popularity makes me realize that they’ve tapped into something fundamental in human nature.
We’ll come back to talent contests in a moment, but let’s jump right into today’s question. Today’s question is: “What makes life worth living?” And the answer I want you to consider is this one: Worship. But what is worship?
In a generalized way, it’s the manic gleam in the eye of the sports’ fan who has memorized his team’s every statistic, going back to 1932. It’s the hyperventilation in the scream of the movie fan when her idol reaches out from the red carpet to brush her outstretched, pleading hand. It’s the, well, I suppose it’s the addictive substance that drives habits like my talent-show-watching behaviour. Worship is simply “worth-ship.” It’s acknowledging worth. Or put another way, it’s the recognition of beauty (in all its forms).
In a biblical sense, it’s the acknowledgement of supreme worth, and it’s to be directed only toward God. But like the dependencies that find themselves met ultimately in God, all those areas of life that draw us so powerfully for some reason or other draw us because, originally, their drawing power comes from God. The athlete’s ability is not of his own making. It was given by God. Likewise to all other talents. Likewise to all the wonders of nature, the rapture of romance, the joy of humour, or any of the other directions that worship may be aimed. Rightly-directed worship takes the focus off the gift but uses the gift as one more reason to ascribe supreme worth-ship to the Giver. There is nothing boring about worship, properly understood. Worship is what we live for. It’s what we were made for. And we will all worship something, even if it’s wrongly-directed worship.
Now, let’s get back to the subject of my addiction and TV talent shows and the fundamental characteristic of human nature they’ve managed to tap into. They showcase people with a dream. Always. So, do we tune in week after week because of our own dreams? Are we living vicariously through the hero or heroine whose dreams we get to watch come true? That’s certainly part of the appeal for me. And here’s something I’ve noticed about dreams that struck me as strange when I started to think about it: our dreams are not just about ourselves. They always seem to involve others.
Do people who enter nationally-televised singing contests, for instance, do so only because they love to sing? They all say so. But it’s not quite true as far as it goes. If that was all there was to it, anyone could sing to him or herself with a hairbrush for a microphone in front of the mirror in the privacy of the bathroom (which, by the way, has the best acoustics in the world—it’s likely the reason so many of us imagine ourselves as great singers) and be perfectly content. No, the dream always involves singing to people. It always involves applause, screams, whistles, validation. Ascribed worth-ship.
The fundamental law of human nature that these shows tap into is the law that we are all extremely invested in what others think of us.
And in and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a relational thing. Relationship as a one-way street is not enjoyable. Neither is it relationship. It’s not enough for us to love. We desire to be loved in return. That’s at the heart of the validation we seek from our big dreams where others admire us.
It becomes a bad thing when ol’ capital “S” Self gets its greedy hooks on it, and shining is only fun when it’s outshining. When winning talent contests is only fun because other people lose. Being number one. Self-first. But that’s a subject for another day.
Discovering that worship wasn’t the drudgery I’d thought as a kid from Sunday morning “worship” services (that weren’t, really) was revelationary for me. So was another discovery: the reason behind God’s desire for our rightly-directed worship. It may come across like God’s on an eg0-trip. Why would God want our supreme worship? Isn’t Self with a capital “S” what’s wrong with our world? Why doesn’t that truth apply to God?
I’m going to tackle that question tomorrow. For today, let me just say that one reason God desires our rightly-directed worship is, in a way, for the same reason we dream our big, shiny dreams. God really cares what we think about Him! This so-startling-it-seems-like-heresy doctrine is splashed across the pages of the Book He wrote. It’s the truth I see through God’s great concern for His name. A person’s name is not something he possesses for his own sake. It’s all about others. It’s how others know him. A name is an identity, but it’s an identity that inextricably involves relationship. When God expresses a great deal of interest in His “name,” it tells us that it’s important to Him how we perceive Him. And when I finally began to grasp this truth, that God is the same species of relational that we are (except without the relational brokenness we all carry), I fell down in awe at the beauty of it.
It’s what I see through the lampstand in God’s tent. He wanted His people to see His beauty—beauty that’s meant to draw us to Him. The lampstand was all about shining. It was all about beauty. And so is worship.