The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 6: Joy in Worship (1 of 3)
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
–Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Being raised in a small-town Catholic community, I never knew worship, or at least I didn’t recognize it and appreciate it at the time. I learned the traditional prayers, the structure of the Mass, when to kneel, stand, and sit, and the discipline and responsibility of being an altar boy. I faithfully went to church with my family on Sunday mornings, a practice which followed through my college years and into adulthood. It wasn’t until I met Mary and we started dating that I had to embrace a new way of looking at and experiencing church. You see, she was raised sort-of Baptist, and after we got engaged I asked her if she would be willing to convert to Catholicism.
She agreed to start the process, but when she started filling out the paperwork to get an annulment from her first marriage, she slammed on the brakes. “God and I talked about my divorce and He still loves me,” she told me emphatically. “I’m not taking this to a panel of people I don’t know to judge that reconciliation. What business is it of theirs? This is between God and me.” She definitely had a different view of God and His mercy than I did! And from that moment on, I had to give up my regimented thinking about what church was all about and open my eyes to a different way of experiencing God. As a result, we started attending a non-denominational evangelical Christian church. What an eye-opener! I quickly discovered that, at least for me, this is what church was meant to be: fresh, unbridled, dynamic, Jesus-centered, Bible-based, accepting, built on relationships with God and other believers serving each other and the community at large. I fit right in! I was finally home! But worship was still something I struggled to get my heart wrapped around.
One Sunday evening, Mary and I attended New River Fellowship’s “First Sunday,” a monthly night of worship and digging deeper into God’s word. An integral part of service which Spirit-filled churches like New River have in common is a half hour or so of praise involving talented singers and musicians. Typically I listen to the music, sing the words . . . and let my mind wander all over the place. Even after eight years of attending non-denominational evangelical churches, I still didn’t fully get it. But that night something shifted. It’s happened before, to a degree, but that night I lifted my hands above my head and closed my eyes during one song–and started crying. The Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. He poured into me, embraced me, loved me. Just for . . . me. I stood there, hands held high, and received His mercy, His love, His awesomeness. I opened myself up to Him and He gushed into me.
Soon after, the Spirit told me very clearly to pray for the guy in the chair in front of me. As we all stood and sang and danced and shouted, he sat with his face in his hand, virtually unmoving. So, in unquestioned obedience, I knelt down, put a hand on his shoulder, and prayed for him out loud. I don’t know what was going on in his life, I don’t know what he needed; the Spirit had nudged me to pray for him, so I did. And gosh it felt good!
The next morning I got up before sunrise, as is my habit, to take the dogs for a walk. I do my best thinking, praying, and creating in the quietness before the neighborhood begins to stir, enveloped in nature’s inspiration and God’s whispers. The pre-dawn morning embraced me in stillness and mid-spring warmth as I led the dogs out the front door and onto the sidewalk. Something–movement, a flash of light, a disturbance–caught my attention, and I turned toward the western sky just in time to catch the green-white streak of a meteor sacrificing itself in the atmosphere for God’s glory. It was truly a good-morning kiss from Daddy. Then I really noticed the sky: cloudless, black, painted with countless stars and the streak of the Milky Way running southwest to northeast. The sliver of a waning crescent moon hung on the eastern horizon. The Milky Way glowed softly against the inky backdrop, more pronounced that morning than I’d seen in recent memory, reminding me of those photos you see from the Hubble telescope of nebulae and galaxies.
Copyright © 2013 David C Hughes