Today's Reading: Exodus 19-21
I always get excited when I read scripture and I start to see a pattern. Today's reading is perhaps the very earliest Order of Worship.
Upon reaching Sinai, God instructs Moses to prepare the people to meet their LORD. Follow this progression with me:
1. There is a recognition of God's initiation toward and salvation of the people (19:4)
2. Obedience to the covenant ensures a purposeful life (kingdom of priests) and a setting apart (holy nation) (19:5-6)
3. The people have a say in the acceptance of God's terms (19:8)
4. God comes to where the people are. (19:9)
5. The people prepare to meet God by cleansing themselves, putting on fresh garments, recognizing their limits and fasting from conjugal rights. (19:10-15)
6. On the third day, smoke, trumpet, fire and quaking announce the presence of God. (19:18-19)
7. The mediators (Moses and Aaron) speak with God and the people remain at a distance. (19:3, 9, 10, 17, 19-25)
8. God's word is shared with the people. (20: 1-17)
9. The people tremble in the presence of God (20:18-19)
10. Moses begins the interpretation of the Ten Commandments of the LORD, by giving specifics about each one. (20:23-21 ff.)
Did you see it? Our present pattern for worship was shaped by the early Israelites' experience. Here are the skeletal bones of the structure that I see. Check this out:
In many of our churches, there is a Call to Worship. This call comes from God. It is God initiation toward us, not ours toward God. We respond in worship when we comprehend what God has done for us! In the Call to Worship, we are also called to a new way of life--a life of obedience and covenant with God.
Before we can enter into deeper fellowship with God, we must respond either by assent to God's invitation or leave the place of worship. This is what the Call to Confession is all about.
Now comes the time of consecration, the cleansing and re-clothing of our bodies and minds. This is baptism and confession. It usually requires time (three days, in the story) and intentionality (no distractions from life's usual activities.)
I think this is usually rushed through. Sometimes I have just drawn the water for my cleansing and we're already on to the next part. Perhaps a lot of the confession needs to happen even before I enter into the place of worship.
As a child, Saturday night was the night of the weekly bath in preparation for Sunday. Our best clothes were laid out the night before.
In some churches, a pool of water greets the worshippers as they enter into the place of worship. In others, a baptismal font filled with water stands as a reminder of one's initial cleansing and the need for daily cleansing.
Now God comes! In some churches, fire and incense enter, the horns sound forth from the organ, the people stand as a mighty army that quakes the earth. There is a sense of wonder and awe!
Next, the priests/elders, set aside by God, share the Word from God. The scriptures are read and then expounded upon, sharing the practical application for the Word. The heart of the message is always the same: this is how to love God; this is how to love neighbor.
How we treat our neighbor is in direct correlation with our relationship to God. In the Gospels, Jesus expands on this theme by saying, "How can say you love God whom you have not seen and despise your brother(sister, neighbor) whom you have seen?"
This week, I met God in many places...or should I say, God met me.
As I sat on the doctor's examination table, I realized each day is a gift. The LORD brought me through cancer.
As I came in from a long day's work, I realized the shelter and comfort of my home is a gift. The LORD, through my parents, gave me an inheritance.
As I considered the state of my soul with my spiritual director, I realized my faith, my upbringing, my intellect, my ability to reason, my ability to remain true to the people I love is all gift from God.
As I struggled with my weaknesses and the temptations of life, I realized my need for cleansing and renewal.
As I serve the LORD and God's people, I realized my calling and purpose.
And everyday, as I blog, I am greeted with God's Word and its implications for my life.
Today, these are the lessons, the Word from God to me.
Treat others fairly.
Honor my elders.
Worship God alone.
Get rid of idolatry.
Embrace God's initiation.
I think that's enough for the day.