~ Wanted: Worshipers of God ~
The Psalter explodes with emotion. King David and the other psalm writers sing praises, vent anger, exclaim joy, complain and question. Despair, anger, grief, sorrow, confession, glorious exaltation, pronouncements of love and fidelity, all punctuate the Book of Psalms. These attributes, combined, form the holy book of worship and prayer, the one most quoted by Jesus.
The Old Testament prophetic books are also dramas of stormy proclamations, heart-piercing admonishments, of crying and shouting, and sunbeams of forgiveness and grace. These intimate books engage our hearts.
By design, the four Gospels and the Book of Acts are a historical record. The epistles that follow them are letters of spiritual instruction. Detached readers miss the delightful humor and banter of Jesus, His wondrous play with words and images, His frightening anger, despairing frustration, tender love, inexplicable sorrows.
Some people like to ask the trivia question: What is the shortest sentence in the New Testament? Answer: Jesus wept. A common response? "Hmm, so Jesus cried. Yes, He was human as well as divine, after all." Scholarship is indeed dry. Intimacy, however, is life!
If someone was reading a matter-of-fact letter from a loved one that mentioned, "When I arrived, I cried," The reader would feel that crying in his or her heart, easily picturing the loved one at that moment, wanting very much to have been there with him or her. A stranger reading that same letter may well just shrug the shoulders, not feeling much.
Should a reader who is intimate with Christ forget what "Jesus wept" about, I'd expect him or her to be very anxious to look it up. In that intimacy, we are comforted that our God knows fully what it means and feels to be human, as the Scriptures point out. Let's ponder something about that, however. Considering what Jesus experienced, I venture that Jesus knows more about what it is like to be human then we do. He never numbed the pain of humanity with drugs, over-sleeping or over-eating. Jesus experienced the brutality of the inhumanity of people far deeper than any of us, with human senses and sensitivity far more acute and receptive than any of us allow in ourselves.
In the Spirit of and intimacy with Jesus the Christ, we not only become partakers of His divinity, we become more fully human as well - human as He was human. Having brothers and sisters is a human biological attribute, but Jesus elevates that into the spiritual realm by calling us His brothers and sisters, and thus making us brothers and sisters to one another. And we become more human, as He was, because strangers and even enemies are seen as neighbors and we do become our "brother's keeper." O to see the world through both the human and spiritual eyes of Jesus! And that's not a mere wish or hope. It is His gift and His will! Scholarship won't do it. Intimacy will, and Jesus calls us into it.
With all this considered, let's reflect on Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman as recorded in chapter 4 of John's Gospel account. This remarkable event begs us, like all recorded events and teachings, to transcend its historical format and enter into His intimate presence. After all, upon arriving in Samaria, Jesus' disciples left Him alone to rest while they walked into town to buy provisions, returning while He was still talking to the woman, 20 verses later; a conversation you can read in a minute. Perhaps John recorded only the essence of a much longer conversation, but the flow leaves some doubt about this. More realistically, the exchange was punctuated with periods of long, contemplative silences, perhaps even long minutes of the woman weeping over five destroyed marriages and her current live-in situation with a sixth man.
The woman is overwhelmed with Jesus whom she now believes is a prophet. Jesus tells her that "a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know" (v. 21-22a, NIV). As background, it's helpful to know that the Samaritans only used the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible. Being unacquainted with the Psalms or the prophetic books, intimacy was lacking. The Samaritans worshiped God, but, as Jesus said, they did not know Him.
Jesus continues to explain "how a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth" (v. 23a). Worshiping the Spirit requires the prostration of our spirits. Many may be too quick and unthinking when they declare "Jesus is my Lord and Savior." A person may confess, "The Savior part is great. I don't want to be shackled to sin and end up in hell. But the Lord part? I don't know about that. I don't even really know what it means for me."
Jesus observes, "You call me Lord, but you don't do what I say." Feel with the heart of Jesus. Is He angry, wrathful, despising? Or profoundly troubled and sorrowful? Hurt? Remember how He gazed over Jerusalem and lamented, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets sent to you! How often did I want to gather you to me like a hen gathers her chicks, but you wouldn't come!" Do you feel angry at Jerusalem? We are also guilty of going our own ways. Do you slow down your reading and begin to shed a tear, feeling the sadness and pain of whom we call Lord?
Worship requires being in truth. John consistently associated truth with Christ, and quoted Him declaring Himself to be the Truth (John 14:6). Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs, eloquently describes worshiping in truth, which doesn't mean knowledge: "Christian people live in these many truths about the Truth, and, because of them, have not 'the Truth.' Hungry, beaten, and drugged, we had forgotten theology and the Bible. We had forgotten the 'truths about the Truth,' therefore we lived in 'the Truth.' It is written, 'The Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him' (Matthew 24:44). We could not think anymore. In our darkest hours of torture, the Son of man came to us, making the prison walls shine like diamonds and filling the cells with light. Somewhere, far away, were the torturers below us in the sphere of the body. But the spirit rejoiced in the Lord. We would not have given up this joy for that of kingly palaces " (Wurmbrand, R., Tortured for Christ, The Voice of the Martyrs, Inc. 1967, 1998, p.70). This is worship in Spirit and in Truth!
To the Samaritan woman Jesus said, "For they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (v. 23b). Those words made me pause for a long time. I can't stop thinking about them. They truly fill me with sorrow. I don't know if Jesus historically cried, but I can imagine Him staring down at the ground with the woman silently watching His tears splashing away the dusty soil. We know our Lord. We know His depth of love and longing for us. How can anyone think Jesus would say such a thing in a scholarly, matter-of-fact way?
Our Father "so loved the world." God is love and pursues us, knocks, invites and even "emptied Himself" to "become sin for us" in the Person of Christ, "who did not see equality with God as something to grasp." A humble, all-loving, sacrificial God who became the Suffering Servant. This is a Truth beyond comprehension! But on top of all that, the Creator and King of all power and dominions is seeking worshipers! Our Father is looking for some of His children who would come into His presence in the only way possible, in Spirit and Truth, in the spirit of glorious worship. The picture of Jesus gazing sadly and longingly at Jerusalem obsesses my mind.
How profoundly sad that our Father, our God of love, is looking for worshipers of Spirit and Truth. How can this be? We are His redeemed children bought at an infinite cost! O Lord, forgive us. How can this be?
In a previous Weekly Reflection, we defined the meaning and implications of the pronouncement, "Here I am!" The prophet Isaiah wrote how he saw seraphim "calling to one another" while flying above our Lord, "'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory:' At the sound of their voices the door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke" (Isaiah 6:3-4, NIV). When the Lord was looking for someone to serve His children, Isaiah shouted, "Here I am!" (v.8).
Our wondrous Lord, Whom we love and emptied Himself for us, is looking for worshipers. Let's go in Spirit and Truth and joyfully, gratefully announce, "Here we are, Father!" It is written that we can both magnify and bless the Lord. Now that's an incredible ability and privilege. We usually ask Him to magnify and bless us! (It is also an incredible thought that we are not as humble and sacrificial as our own Lord, King and Creator.) A Christmas carol encourages us to "Come, let us adore Him." That is an invitation to worship Him. What a joy! And what a joy to see Him lovingly smile and feel His beloved Heart magnify and be blessed by His worshipful and grateful children! We weep as He weeps. We rejoice as He rejoices. We adore Him. He is our Father and our All.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © February 16, 2002
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