20“Now as for you, Son of Man, your nation’s children keep gathering together to talk about you beside the walls and at the doorway to their houses. Everyone tells one another, ‘Please come! Let’s go hear what the Lord has to say.’ 31Then they come to you as a group, sit down right in front of you as if they were my people, hear your words—and then they don’t do what you say—because they’re seeking only their own desires, they pursue ill-gotten profits, and they keep following their own self-interests. 32As far as they are concerned, you sing romantic songs with a beautiful voice and play a musical instrument well. They’ll listen to what you have to say, but they won’t put it into practice! 33When all of this comes about—and you can be sure that it will!—they’ll learn that a prophet has been in their midst.”Ezekiel 33:30-33 (ISV)
If you’ve been a Christian for a length of time, you’ve probably experienced heated discussions (or just overheard) on the appropriateness of certain worship songs or instruments (or for some any instruments or songs). There has been an ongoing focus on paid performance worthy worship, which isn’t the reality for most churches.
Most churches do not have recording artists (or recording artist worthy) musicians or singers. Some do, and are blessed.
It’s not just the music and songs. In the Protestant circles—even in the Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist traditions—there has been a sometimes pathological (hyperbole) hatred of anything even vaguely resembling stereotypical Roman Catholic services; whether it is incense, garments, candles, colors, keeling (or kneelers), crossing oneself, and so on.
Read the words from Ezekiel again. What is your perception of what worship is? Is “seeking only (your) own desires”? Are they romantic (like much of Christian music, these days) with great voices and well played instruments?
I have nothing against good playing and singing. I am my own worst critic in regard to that. Partially, I think, because I am my own worst critic, I have to ask myself, what is the purpose of our gatherings (in particular, on Sundays)?
Is it romance? I can be caught up in it, too. Yet, we aren’t called to only enjoy well played and sung songs. We aren’t only called to have a few songs, a prayer (or even ten!), a sermon, a remembrance meal (i.e., Communion/Eucharist), and a benediction.
We are called…perhaps, better said, commanded to put it into practice. If you go to a weekly (Sunday or whenever) gathering, a Bible study or discussion group, sing a dozen Christians songs a day…and don’t put it into practice…then Ezekiel’s words are for you. If think Ezekiel’s words don’t apply to you, then you still need them as a warning, to make sure that the words continue to not apply to you.
- What is an essential for you (This is your personal answer, not a test.) to experience proper worship? Why do you think that is? How does that fit (or not) into Ezekiel’s words?
- Do you think that there is a disconnect between what you hear and participate in for your weekly (e.g., Sunday) gathering, and what you do the remaining 167 hours (approximately) of the week?
God, as we ponder what it means to rightly worship and honor you, please guide our thoughts and heart that we might be better today than yesterday at putting our actions at the center of worship. Amen.