GOD ANSWERS WHY-WHY DO I NEED TO WORSHIP
Dear Christian friends,
I grew up in rural Wisconsin. I have often referred to two men that I knew from our neighborhood. One worked for my dad and so did his wife. He was like a nice grandfather type man, but he had no use for God. Basically he said he had no use for a God who needed to be worshipped. I did enjoy listening to his practical wisdom on other things in life.
The other graduated from the University of Wisconsin. I don’t know what he had a degree in, but remained single. He and his brother owned and ran a farm. My Dad said he came back from college a different kind of man. After working for my Dad most of the day, he and his brother would often ask if we wanted to earn extra money by helping them harvest hay and potatoes and pick cucumbers. With my Dad’s job I paid for school. With the money I earned from them, I bought clothes and it served as my spending money at school.
While he was a nice man he was a prolific reader. He was like our neighborhood answer man. If you needed to know an answer, we asked him…except when it came to the Bible. He just didn’t see why anyone would go to church. He certainly didn’t understand why my brothers and I were studying to be pastors.
I am sad to this day that I will probably never see those two again. They were two of a kind, like a lot of others who would ask, “Why Worship?” As we go back to a story we would more likely hear at Christmas time, Matthew deals with 1) The reasons people ask the question; but also 2) God’s answer to the question. .
Why worship? People say that 50 million people worship in the United States of America on an average weekend. Wow! That’s a lot of people. Politicians see it as a voting bloc. That’s equivalent to the population of five Georgia’s. The problem is that there are about 325 million people in America. That figures out to about one in 6.5 people worship on a weekend.
How does that apply to Messiah? You see the numbers on our weekly update that I send out. We usually have about fifty percent or better. Many would do cartwheels for that. Let’s take a closer look. 50 % isn’t a passing grade at school. 50 % attendance at work gets you fired. God never misses church. While there are legitimate absences, there are far more that are not.
Why don’t people make worship more of a priority? The excuses are so numerous and even incomprehensible. For many it’s laziness. For many God is just not important. Some rationalize “Why worship a God who allows such horrible things to happen?” But let me address one that my father’s friend used – I don’t want to worship a God who demands that I praise him.
The majestic and only God does say, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.” He is a jealous God and demands our praise. He says that to protect us. There is no other. But some say he appears to be a petty God. He seems like the needy or insecure person who fishes for compliments all the time and begs for some validation of who he is and what he does.
Our God is not like that. He is a God we sing about and praise him. He is God who brings us joy. Those who see God in such a negative way have not really seen God for who he is.
As I studied these words of Matthew, I decided to google some artwork that has been produced of that wondrous visit of the Magi who traveled so far. One piece of artwork that didn’t really impress me at first was done by an artist by the name of Giotto, a 13th-14th century Italian artist. His version of “The Adoration of the Magi” is considered among his greatest masterpieces. When I saw the painting I thought he should not give up his day job. But as I looked at it, the star of Bethlehem was a bit peculiar. As I read about the history of the painting, the star might have been modeled after Halley’s Comet which was visible just before Giotto painted the picture. In 1986 the European Space Agency sent a satellite to explore Halley’s Comet and they named the spacecraft – the Giotto spacecraft. My point is that the painting of the Adoration of the Magi now has a different meaning to me. I appreciate it more since I looked more deeply into its background.
A pastor announced after church once, “There will be a meeting of the Board immediately after the service in the fellowship hall." So after the service, the Church Board gathered in the fellowship hall, but there was a stranger in their midst -- a visitor who had never attended their church before. The pastor said to the visitor, “My friend, we are glad you are here this morning but this is a meeting of the board.” "Yes," said the visitor, "and after today's sermon, I am surprised that after your sermon this morning there aren’t more people here.”
Why worship when the pastor wasn’t interesting? Why worship when the subject just doesn’t interest me? Why worship when it is boring? Why worship when it isn’t fun? Maybe the solution is to pay more attention because the subject matter: God, your sin, the endless temptation, Jesus, the cross, God’s grace, eternity and look at it closely before you say that it’s boring.
A few years ago Judy, Courtney and I went to Washington DC. Everybody in my family had been there before except me. In retirement, I want to spend more time there to see all there is to see. When we were in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian, I couldn’t get enough of it. I noticed that Courtney wasn’t nearly as intrigued as I was to see the space capsules that had flown the astronauts to the moon and back. There were videos of the moonwalks. It took me back to those days of college and high school. Courtney was born after all that. Just like Giotto’s painting, there is so much to learn and marvel at.
So it is with the Word of God. How can the Word of God be boring when God’s promises that are revealed in his Word are shared in worship? If anyone has a right to be bored with worship it is not we who should be bored with him but he should be bored with us.
Matthew says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Put yourself in the sandals of the Magi. A miraculous star appeared in the sky. There was no ho-hum, let’s get back to our game of checkers. They paid attention. God had gotten their attention. The Wise Men observed the skies. Among many other things they were astrologers. Ancient historians of the Near East, Greece and Rome were fond of describing astronomical events.
The Wise Men followed the star. They went on a journey that took them hundreds and hundreds of miles – on faith. Something and someone was at the end of their journey that could not be ignored. They were not disappointed. At the end of the journey lay the King of Kings and the Lord of lords. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
They wanted to worship. They needed to worship. They were eager to worship. Not a bored thought crossed their minds. They rode the backs of camels mile after mile after mile to worship whom they didn’t know. We drive a few miles in comfort to worship whom we do know.
They found that the surprising star led them to the King of kings who should not have surprised anyone at all. The King was expected, not just for nine months, but for thousands of years. “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” The royal visitors went to when to the royal palace to find the royal nursery of the royal one whose royal star brought them to where they were to go.
But the only “royalty” they found to this point was a corrupt and evil and very human king - King Herod. It was obvious he wasn’t clued in. He did not share in the excitement of the Wise Men.
He called his religious advisors together. They had scrolls written centuries before. Those scrolls had answers. Micah, a prophet who lived five hundred years before wrote all about this event. It was so plain and forthright. “For this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
The scrolls they consulted, the Scriptures, had all the details to a ‘t’. And there are more astounding details written centuries before they occurred. This is boring? Certainly not! This book is remarkable! It’s miraculous. This is not John Grisham. This is not David Baldacci. This book has the hand of God all over it. This is the voice of God… and he is talking to you. This is not a time to Ho-hum! This is a time to say, “Wow!”
Listen to the story. God sees the tragic end caused by our sins. He would not stand for it. He did something about it. God came to earth in human flesh. The greatest and richest of all, the one who owns all things, became poor so that we the spiritually desolate might become rich beyond comprehension.
Think about it. Worshipping God isn’t appealing? I don’t want to take the time? I can make better use of my time? Really?
Look again at Jesus. I know it is Labor Day weekend, the first weekend of September. But there is value in looking at the beginning of his earthly sojourn. We see the baby Jesus as the Wise Men did. He lived among us but not like us. He was without sin. There is a reason. You and I have no righteousness of our own, but as you page through the perfect pages of Scripture, we see moment after moment of flawless living. He allows us to wear his robes of righteousness to cover the shame of our selfishness and self- centeredness. When we die it isn’t our own lives that flash before our eyes but the life of Christ that Jesus lived or us.
That’s not all. A rock star wears a crucifix and is asked why she wears it. She says it is sexy. Those words are an abomination…aren’t they? See Jesus’ pain and suffering. See Jesus’ love. Hear the words, “It is finished.” What is finished? The payment! The punishment of our sins that he bore! The rock star knows nothing of Jesus. But the Roman centurion did. He confessed as millions have ever since, “Surely this was the Son of God!” our Savior and Lord.
The Magi came hundreds of miles. They spent much time over rugged terrain to see that baby. They presented valuable gifts as part of their worship. What are you willing to give? An hour of worship? An hour of Bible study? How about your lives to him who gave you everything? That’s worship!