Thursday, March 13, 2008

In Worship We Join Creation in Celebrating the Coming of God’s Anointed

There is no greater activity we do as Christians than worship. Whether we worship daily in our individual devotion times or worship corporately as we gather with the body of Christ in community worship, our lives ought to exude attitudes and actions of worship. Yet, we may often find worship boring, unnecessary, and even burdensome. As Christians, however, our worship is a response to God and God’s actions in the coming of Jesus. Worship, then, is not a boring, unnecessary, and burdensome exercise. It is an act of grace in which we respond to God’s love and majesty.

The coming of Jesus as God’s Messiah brought euphoric celebration from some and contempt and jealousy from others. Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem in Luke 19:28-40 narrates a scene that most pointedly describes these opposing reactions. As Jesus enters the city, the crowds cry out with joy and worship of God for a promised Messiah who has now arrived. Yet, the Pharisees react to Jesus with contempt by refusing to join in the celebration and by stifling the worship of the people

The scene begins with Luke informing us that Jesus was going to Jerusalem. We should not take this as simply a reference to Jesus’ location. Rather, Luke purposely indicates that the prophecies about God’s beloved are about to be fulfilled in the city of fulfillment. The long expected coming of the Messiah is now happening in their lives and the joy they feel cannot be contained. The irony of this is that though the crowds see Jesus coming in victorious power, Luke, Jesus, and the readers familiar with the story, know that Jesus goes to Jerusalem to face denial, rejection, and death.

Yet, while Jesus’ actions were taken by some as the victory of God, others understood them as a direct threat to their authority. The Pharisees, religious leaders of Israel, held their power by the permission of the Roman authorities and any disruption in Jerusalem would surely end their power. In many ways, although the Pharisees hated the Romans, their own fate was tied to pleasing their pagan overlords.

This is why the Pharisees seek to censor the worship of the crowd. Jesus, however, implies that creation itself has longed for this day and if the crowd was silenced, the Pharisees would hear the stones shout in worship to God. The reference to the stones shouting out does not mean that if the crowd is silenced then the stones would begin their worship. The meaning seems to be that the stones, which are symbolic of all of creation, are already offering praise to God. The people are only joining God’s creation in worship.

The portrayal of the characters in the Triumphal Entry scene forces us to see ourselves as part of the story and it calls us to choose a reaction to Jesus’ coming as God’s anointed one. We can either react as the Pharisees did by rejecting Jesus, or we can react as the crowds did and join with creation in the worship of God.

The story also defines for us what our worship should be—the celebratory reaction to God’s actions in Jesus. In worship, we find our place in the choir of creation and we experience the joy of being the objects of God’s love and actions. In the authentic worship of God, we become caught up in the joy of the worship of God as we join creation in shouting out to God in an eternal and exuberant celebration.

1 comment:

johnhamilton said...

"The stones cry out" -- you're right on. The world of matter I think is more alive than we typically think. Maybe the primal music of the spheres is joy, worship. I find the idea in Buber, and in Teilhard as well. Makes for a wonderful devotion, to imagine atoms and molecules dancing in the presence of God.