Worship. The secret sauce.

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say Rejoice.

Philippians 4 v 4

Sometimes you just have to keep it simple. Get back to the basics. Who He Is. Who we are.

He is God. And we aren’t.

Like the woman who gave me a lesson in prayer one clear beautiful morning in Wells Park, Sydenham, there are times when we have to lift our heads out of our first-world problems and praise God for what we take for granted.

Sight. Feeling. Smell. Taste. Hearing. Family. Friendships. A roof over our heads. Clothes to wear. Food in the fridge. Choice after choice that is simply inconceivable to the millions living in poverty far away and on our doorsteps. Muesli or toast? Eggs or yoghurt? These shoes or those ones? Choice after choice that could have landed us in trouble, in hospital, in the ground – but didn’t. Endless mercies we won’t understand or appreciate this side of eternity.

It is hard to do sometimes because our stuff is in our faces. It’s hard to see past. But when I change my line of sight, lifting my head to worship, that tidal wave of overwhelm seems to disappear.

God is still God despite my issues, my problems, my perceived or real challenges. And he is always worthy of my praise, my admiration, my trust and my attention. This transcendent God, who could snuff my life out in a second, chooses to favour me with his love, to join his life to mine, to manifest in my life, at my side, in my heart, utterly committed in his love. It can sometimes take me a while to remember the power of worship to re-align my perspectives and my perceptions. I have phases when I forget completely to say thanks and I love you. When I choose to lie face-down in the sludge of my ‘problems’ instead of lying prostrate before Him. But when I remember to worship, well…that’s the secret sauce.

In the strange paradox of worship, I come away stronger, standing taller, surer than ever that the best is ahead and not behind me.

Hallelujah. Bless His Holy Name.

Friday. Good.

I’ve always wondered about the connection between Easter and chocolate. Let me not even get started on the man-size bunny that supplies eggs. Where I live now, in Australia, the spring theme of Easter at the beginning of autumn just adds to the strangeness. At the same time, it’s good to break out of the seasonality of the Christian calendar. The commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is relevant in all seasons, everywhere.

Whatever you make of it, this single execution some 2000 years ago is still news. Controversial, life-changing news for tens of millions. The danger for people like me who grew up in church and have heard the Easter story countless times is to let it wash over us a bit. Crucifixion is a horrible way to die, by anyone’s standards, and to become de-sensitised to it is to risk missing the enormity of what Jesus did.

Maybe to guard against that I have heard a fair few preachers deliver gory crucifixion sermons over the course of my life, doing in words what Mel Gibson did in pictures in his film The Passion of The Christ; it took me years to bring myself to watch it as my own imagination had already supplied plenty of footage, but I was glad when I eventually did.

My lent preparation for this weekend of commemoration, my phase of not complaining, really came out of a desire to get to an authentic gratitude, acceptance and humility before God. Not because I’m superspiritual (a casual browse of this blog will tell you that) but because that’s what God deserves.

Recognising a power greater than myself is not alien. My life, and yours, is full of authority figures, ranging from parents through teachers to bosses. I didn’t prostrate myself before any of these, but it is right and apt that I should do so before God. All the more so when the events of Easter remind me that He actually entered history and let himself be judged and killed by the very people he had created.

This morning in church we had a dramatic reading of the arrest and trial of Jesus. As usual in many churches, we in the congregation were the crowd who had to shout out at various times, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ It’s always powerful, and uncomfortable, to hear ourselves implicated in his death. A few days earlier, a crowd had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as a king. Now a different, or perhaps not so different, crowd were baying for his blood. Perhaps they felt he had betrayed them, sold them short, not given them what they wanted – a great political leader to overthrow the occupying Romans. Sometimes I might still feel something like that. I didn’t get what I wanted or hoped for. And so I reject him. I am disappointed that he hasn’t taken the world by storm, stopped evil dead in its tracks instead of relying on people, weak and flawed as we are, to let him work through us.

But then I remember that Sunday’s coming. And that though the crowd had the power to put him to death, it could not keep him dead.  And if we believe, we are also implicated in this resurrection. Rising from death.  The ultimate victory. The fresh start. New life. He had to die so that he could rise. So that we could rise. That surely makes this Friday the start of something good.

Happy Easter




To worship is to simply give something the highest honour we can. The object we worship takes up more space and time in our lives than anything else. It can influence our world view, our opinions and our reactions. It has the casting vote. It cannot be replaced with anything else, at least, not easily, because it simply has no equal. It may be an ideal, a philosophy, a football team, an eating regime, what your stylist says you should wear, your career…the options are endless. Most of us have the tendency to worship something or someone. When we’re young we may adore our parents, and if not we certainly find other people or other things to fill the void. It may be celebrities, or gurus, or self-made millionaires. Any live concert shows that the idea of worship is not exclusively religious.

A friend recently asked me what I thought about styles of worship in the Christian church these days. She found the contemporary soft-rock style favoured at the moment distracting, derivative and predictable. A poor impression of pop music. On the other hand, she felt that more traditional, classical church music was more appropriate for the job. I heard myself say that the style didn’t really matter too much, because worship was essentially an internal, private affair between the heart of the believer and God; the moment of worship in a church gathering is a weird combination of a corporate and intensely personal event. The corporate singing of a congregation joins the church on earth to heaven, where angels worship God directly. It is an expression of continuity with that realm. It is also uniquely personal, because worship cannot be performed on your behalf; it is the only thing a human being can give to God, her or his individual expression of love and adoration. It can’t be done by proxy because it is a matter of the heart. It would be like getting someone else to write a love letter for you which contains none of your own feelings, words or your reasons for loving that person.

Styles of music are irrelevant in my view; I can connect or disconnect in any setting with any genre of music and that can be as much about my own level of engagement with God as anything else. I think that debates about worship music are distractions. Worship has nothing to do with music. It’s about giving God honour. It’s about putting him first. For that I don’t need music. A book I read long ago by David Watson (called, strangely enough, Worship) came to the conclusion that worship was much, much wider than mere music and was actually about the entire orientation of one’s life towards God and his values.

Makes sense to me at least. One of my objects of worship, or to call it by its real name, idols, was the opinion of others. Not Looking A Fool. Yes, I dedicated many hours to that particular false god, and it is taking a while to unlearn all the postures necessary to prostrate myself before it. Now I am working on making room for What Will Please God. This means learning to value some things I didn’t before, and to discard others I once held in high regard. It’s challenging, to put it mildly. Like finishing this alphabet before year’s end. Like finishing it at all. Like this whole blog.