The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
May 1, 2022
Parents have been known to linger long in a darkened bedroom just watching their children sleep. Freed in the moment from the demands of meeting their kids’ immediate needs, the parents allow themselves to simply appreciate the gift their little ones are. They bask in grateful wonder over them; they relish their mere existence, as their small chests rise and fall with their breathing.
Spouses who have enjoyed a long and happy marriage also know the delight of just drinking in, with lingering appreciation, the gift their beloved is.
Pastor Dan Meyer tells of conducting a funeral for a saint in his church who was universally loved, but loved most of all by the person who knew him best of all: his wife of 72 years. As the pastor and the widow walked away from the grave, she slipped him an envelope containing a couple of $100 bills and a note that read: “Please enjoy dinner with your wife. Every minute together is precious.”
For most of her more than 90 years on earth, this widow had built her life around the love of her man. She had raised and buried children with him. She had faced storms and sunshine alike with him. She had savored his heart, mind and strength more than anyone. But, for her, those decades of enjoying all that still didn’t constitute enough time together. To help herself deal with her loss, she sought to give her pastor the chance to luxuriate, undistracted, in grateful awareness of what a treasure he had in his spouse.
Not all of us have children. Not all of us have a spouse. But all of us who follow Jesus have a Savior to appreciate, cherish and adore.
We can do this at almost any time and in almost any place. But it is a rewarding discipline for life to do it every week with each other at church.
Did you know that the word “worship” derives from a contraction of an old word: “worthship”? In worship we celebrate how worthy Christ is to receive our most ardent admiration. In worship we take in how praiseworthy, trustworthy and worthy of love He is. We revel in His greatness and goodness.
In doing that, we imitate the countless angels and other heavenly beings whose praise of Christ is described in today’s scripture. They marvel over the wonder of Him, revel in His surpassing splendor and sing to His honor, “Worthy is the Lamb!” His glory, grace and holiness exceed that of all others. There is none like Him. He is above all, and greater than all!
It’s instructive to note that, in this and every other passage of Revelation, those who worship Christ sing His praise. For singing engages the entirety of a person: body, mind and heart. It’s also instructive to note that Revelation records no solos. Those who worship Christ join their voices to sing His praise with others.
The residents of heaven praise the wonderfully worthy Christ with everything they’ve got, with everyone they’ve got to join them, because He deserves the utmost in honoring. But because He’s that wonderful, there’s a second reason to praise Him: Those who bless His name in worship bless themselves!
Throughout life we praise what we prize. Praising, as C.S. Lewis once noted, naturally and spontaneously springs forth from whatever or whomever we enjoy. Lovers praise their beloved; art aficionados, magnificent paintings; sport fans, great teams. And we can’t help but seek to enlist others to join us in our praising. We want others to rave with us about the beauty of a musical piece, a gorgeous sunset, a stirring act of heroism. Lewis writes, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” Lewis says that is not from flattery that lovers keep telling one another how wonderful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is, Lewis says, frustrating to have discovered a new author and not be able to tell someone who appreciates good writing how great the author is at their craft; to come to the turn of a road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur, and then to have to keep silent because those with you care for it no more than for a tin can in a ditch; to hear a good joke and to have no one who relishes such things to share it with.
Fully to enjoy anything is to revel in the praise of it with others. Thus, to fully enjoy Christ is to revel in the praise of Him with others. That means, to give Christ His due in worship is to do ourselves a favor.
But of course, Lewis notes, when we worship Christ in a real life church, we carry on like musicians rehearsing for a more meaningful and magnificent performance. A musical rehearsal can, Lewis observes, be itself delightful, but only to those who anticipate the grand performance in the symphony hall. So too, our earthly rehearsals of worship, in practice for the grand performance in heaven, may at times feel like a duty and bring little or no delight. But the duty serves the delight, and can revive the delight even while preparing us to enjoy its ultimate fulfillment. So, if we are faithful to the duty, we act as wisely as farmers who dig water channels in a draught in order to be able to capture the rain when it eventually comes – as it surely will, even in this world.
May we trust God to bring the rains of His grace right on time, and may we be happily surprised at how often it is wonderful to worship the wonderfully worthy Savior with everything we’ve got, with everyone together!