What Worship Can Really Give Us

What Worship Can Really Give Us

For many, worship is all about answers. Big answers. Little answers. Even ordinary answers.

“Where can I find meaning for my life?”

“What do I do now that my marriage has fallen apart and I feel like such a failure?”

“How can I know if there is a God and if he even knows I exist?”

Answers are good.

For many, worship is all about answers.

We grow up looking for answers.

“What is that?”

“Are we there yet?”

“Is it gonna hurt?”

Sometimes college students like answers. “Listen, of the three views you presented in class, which one is the right one? Which one am I supposed to believe?” Or, “Dr. Lawson, listen, I know you put up lecture outlines. I know I never take notes. I know you passed out a study guide. But, if you’d be so kind, can you tell me which of the study question things are going to be on the test? And, if I can’t find the answer is five minutes, would you mind emailing me that part of your lecture?”

We like answers. When we’re young, we go to worship mostly to find answers.

But, in the Bible, worship often ends with something closer to a question than an answer.

“Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”

“Will you leave everything and follow me?”

A voice called, “Cry out.” And I answered, “What shall I cry out?”

I like answers because I can grab them, hold them, label them and then wrap them all up in shiny ribbons and set them in neat rows on my shelf. And, if I ever need them again I just reach up and voilà! There’s the answer. Answers can be categorized, memorized, scrutinized, sanitized, minimized and set aside.

Questions, on the other hand, are untidy things. They refuse to squeeze into my little boxes and keep kicking off their ribbons. They hang on my clothes and stick to my socks. They trail behind me, following me home, and then snuggle up next to me in those twilight moments between sleep and waking.

“Son of dust, what now will you do?”

“You who teach others, do you teach yourselves?”

Ah, to be honest, sir, I don’t know. I just came here looking for a few good answers. And, don’t get me wrong; I got some really good ones, too. Not the made-up answers most people are peddling these days. But then you have to go and muddy up the waters by these questions. And, you know how it is with questions—one kind of leads to another.

“So, just who was neighbor to that poor beaten man on the road to Jericho?”

Which, of course, takes a few trips around on a couple of trains of thought and ends up something more like, “Should I have stopped to help that kid with the flat tire over on third Street?”

Like I said, these pesky things hang on you worse than cat hairs hang on a wool suit.

Answers focus mostly on what I want to get out of worship. Questions prod me more about what I should be giving to worship. Answers usually make me feel better, even if they don’t change anything. Questions sometimes make me feel worse, but can lead to fresh insights and changed lives. But, like the character Trinity says in The Matrix: “It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here.”

How was worship today?

Sometimes, I want to say, “I’m just not sure, yet. Give me some time muddle over a question I seem to have picked up in there.”

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tomlawson@churchleaders.com'
Tom has taught in Christian higher education for 25 years, with a focus on the theology and history of Christian worship. Tom, along with his wife Linda, serves on the faculty of Ozark Christian College (Joplin, Missouri, US). Tom grew up among the Primitive Baptists of the Appalachian mountains. Through his adult life, he has served in churches and taught at schools associated with the Christian Churches (of the Stone-Campbell Movement).