Friday, August 31, 2007

With Reverence and Awe

Last Sunday, as we looked at Hebrews 11-12, we discovered that worship that is acceptable to God flows from gratitude. This gratitude is produced as faith grasps the realities of what God has given us in Christ. Furthermore, acceptable worship is accompanied by reverence and awe.

But what is "reverence and awe"? In some ways that seems like an easy question; we know what the words mean. But in practice, this is a different matter. It seems that in America we have no cultural pattern of reverence. It may, in fact, be considered a bad thing, for it means thinking and feeling that another is better or greater than I am. We are conditioned not to give instinctive deference to authority, and if we do give deference, it is only because we believe we will benefit from it. When we meet someone, we shake hands; we do not bow.

But on the other hand, I believe that we do have patterns of reverence in our society. The problem is that it is reverence for all the wrong things. Celebrities, rock stars, and sports stars receive great adulation and deference. The monk Thomas Merton famously wrote that advertising treats all products with the reverence due to the sacraments. While we wouldn't agree with his approach to the sacraments, his point is well taken. In our idolatrous culture, people and things take the place of God in our worship, and the "reverence" we display is appropriate to its object.

The challenge for us as believers, then, is to re-learn what reverence and awe looks like when it is directed toward the one true and living God. The author of Hebrews reminds us that he is a consuming fire. Acceptable worship must take this into account.

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)
Fairest Lord Jesus (#21)
How Great Thou Art (#28)
Psalm 95
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)

With Reverence and Awe - Hebrews 12:28-29

We will also celebrate the Lord's Supper together.

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