These last chapters in the book of Psalms really has me thinking about praise and worship. The psalmists say all of creation praises God.
I’m sitting in my sunroom, looking at a flowering rose bush, listening to chirping birds, hearing the wind rustling the leaves on trees, enjoying the sunlight after yesterday’s rain, and wondering how any of that translates into praising God.
The beauty of creation is doing exactly what it was created to do. The pine tree in my back yard doesn’t seem to be trying to be a live oak. And it’s branches grow upward, pointing to heaven as though lifting hands in worship.
Now I’m not suggesting the pine tree is choosing to do what God wants it to. It just can’t help itself because it’s a tree, and God is God. And I think that’s the kind of praise these psalms talk about in reference to all of God’s creation… including us.
I love that I am reading these psalms the day after my pastor preached from Mark 7, where Jesus called out the Pharisees for their insincere worship of God. They had been more concerned about their man-made traditions than about God.
My pastor reminded us that not everyone who attends church worships, not everyone who sings the songs worships, not everyone who carries a Bible and says an occasional, “Amen,” worships.
The difference between the praise and worship of my pine tree and me is, I have a choice. Worship for me involves a setting aside of the cares of my day, my plans for the week, the chip in my nail polish, or the baby in my lap, and intentionally focusing my attention on God alone.
If I am distracted, my worship becomes like unauthorized fire. If you want to know God’s take on that, read about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.
One of my concerns about modern day worship services is the tendency to replace thinking and intention with feeling. The “worship experience” turns attention away from God and toward me, my own experience. When the drummer does a solo, or the guitar player performs an impressive run, where does my attention turn? If I sing the same phrase eight times so that my heart “soars,” my attention in on my heart, on my feelings of euphoria.
Now, lest you think I think singing hymns is the only acceptable form of worship, how many times have you had your eyes on the words in the hymnal, and your mind on the roast in the oven? Distraction is distraction whether you are are praising God with a rock band or a pipe organ.
Our God is worthy of praise. Our God demands worship. I believe Scripture tells us distracted praise and worship is neither praise nor worship.
God deserves better than that.