I was recently afforded the opportunity to perform in the Murfreesboro Symphony Chorus at a concert with the Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra. I had been to orchestral performances many times before, and while they can be very exciting, they can also be a bit tiresome during some passages. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself waking up to the applause of the audience at the end of a piece. This one, however–almost every moment of it–was different.
Perhaps it was the acoustics–the reverberation in the venue; perhaps it was the one or two thousand faces focused in on the stage; perhaps it was being able to see the conductor’s face for once instead of his back; perhaps it was getting to be part of a group of incredible singers to which I felt inferior; perhaps it was the beauty of the music, much of which was written by one of the best-known composers of our time. As I sang with the choir, or simply sat and listened as the orchestra played alone, excitement flowed through me like electricity during almost the entire concert. Every solo, every climax, every quiet passage, every pause created a sensation I could feel, not only in my mind and heart, but in my body. Here was a group of some of the best musicians (and me) performing excellent music by one of the most well-regarded modern composers on some of the finest instruments in a superb venue, led by one of the most talented conductors in our region. Every person there (on stage and in the audience) was focused on one thing–the music. Being in the midst of the ensemble provided for one of the most intense musical experiences I’ve ever had.
Revelation 14, 15, and 19 have descriptions of multitudes of people and angels singing praise to God. I’m afraid sometimes we think of that image and liken it to our local congregational singing, which–like any other thing we do on a regular basis–can often seem less than thrilling. We all come to worship laden with burdens we’ve been carrying through the week, and we make an attempt to stir our emotions while singing songs we’ve sung hundreds of times until they have lost their effect on us. We sometimes jump at chances to learn new songs, but eventually, we lose our excitement for them, too, and the sameness of the worship atmosphere from week to week causes it to seem stale.
I don’t think we should make a comparison between our local worship and the worship described in John’s vision, which pictures all of God’s redeemed children from every nation and every age giving undivided attention to lifting one roaring, thundering voice in the real, spiritual presence of God (no more distractions like we have now) to praise Him for the victory He accomplished for us through Jesus Christ. If heaven is just going to be an eternal extension of one of our Sunday worship services , there is not very much to look forward to. I mean no disrespect, of course, for some of our services can be very uplifting and encouraging; but I think God intended for there to be something lacking in our assemblies here, leaving us longing for something better. There is one thing, however, that our local assemblies should have in common with the passages in Revelation, the thing that should create what excitement we do feel–a united focus on glorifying God.
There is joy in combining our efforts with someone else to accomplish some purpose. That joy is the source of all kinds of things in our society–universities, professional organizations for people in various occupations, clubs, sports, bands, media of all kinds (radio, television, newspapers, etc.), movies, plays, and millions of things I’m forgetting about. When God’s people assemble, they should all be focused on glorifying Him, and when that is done properly, the result will be joy in the combined effort. Our worship doesn’t have to be the most thrilling experience we’ve ever had to be worship that pleases God. All it has to do is bring us together in glorifying Him. When this happens, we get just a taste–like the tiny sampling spoons at Baskin Robbins–of the joy we’ll experience with all the redeemed at the end of time. That is an assembly we will not want to miss–when every child of God who’s ever walked the face of the earth from the first breath of Adam to the last trumpet will be gathered round the throne in renewed bodies to join in singing with one voice in a new language, with no sin or sorrow or temptation to annoy as they relish the electrifying sensation of a thunderous roar of sound emanating all around them, the sound of all the redeemed praising God, whom they now see as He Is, and Jesus, whose scars they have finally touched, and the Holy Spirit who led them to this place. That is the assembly we all long for as we pull out of the drive on Sunday mornings–the one we are secretly disappointed that we fell short of as we leave to go get something to eat–the one that will rock us to the core. Don’t be discouraged, brother or sister in Christ. It will happen, and I pray we are both there when it does.
For now, I look forward to seeing you at the next local assembly for practice!
After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:1)
On Zion’s glorious summit stood a numerous host redeemed by blood
They hymned their King in strains divine; I heard the song and strove to join.
Here all who suffered sword or flame for truth, or Jesus’ lovely name,
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb, and bow before the great I AM.
While everlasting ages roll, eternal love shall feast their soul,
And scenes of bliss forever new rise in succession to their view.
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts, on high adored!
Who like me Thy praise should sing, O Almighty King?
Holy, holy, holy.
~ Robert Skeene
- Worship: The Practice of Eternity! (greaterislove.wordpress.com)