Vacations are fantastic! Don’t you agree? My wife, Faye, and I recently spent a week in Southern California. The weather was great–nice and cool when compared to Arizona. The ocean and beaches couldn’t have been better. It was the ideal place to get away from it all–a time for rest and renewal.
One of the highlights for me was a day spent at Disneyland. I remember, as a child, watching the opening of Disneyland on the television. I believe it was 1956. From that moment I wanted to visit Disneyland. As part of a working class family living in Minnesota, that was a far off dream. Later we traveled as a family to Disney World when my sons were young, but that wasn’t Disneyland. My dream was finally realized on my birthday. Wow, if you ever want to be someplace to escape reality, Disneyland is the place. By the evening I was bone tired, but strangely refreshed.
As I reflected on my experience, I realized that worship is a lot like vacation for me. No, it is not as mind blowing as the 3-D Star Wars ride, nor as “sweet” as floating through “It’s a Small World” (thank The Lord). It is, however, a time to step away, refocus and be renewed and prepared to re-enter the world. Yes, I know that I should worship because God is truly worthy of our worship and praise–and nothing else. I’m not quite that sanctified, though. I try to “kill two birds with one stone” by worshipping God and having the Holy Spirit refresh me. There are people, however, who no longer see the necessity of worship.
I’m amazed at the number of progressive Christians who are forsaking worship–I don’t think they would do the same with their vacations. I suspect that a there are a number of reasons for this. Worship may feel a bit old fashioned; a relic from the past. Sometimes when you try to interpret the Bible in a way that is intellectually honest, God becomes more transcendent and less immanent. Worship becomes more distant along with God. For many, I think, they assume that worship can be a private affair just between themselves and God.
I won’t deny that time alone with God is needed. Worship has more dimensions than just that, though. I think that it is necessary for us to spend time alone, but we are social beings. We need to be with people and worship is one of the times when we need to be with others in a faith community. Singing with others can renew our spirits—it also covers up the times when we miss the note. Praying with others broadens my broadens the perspective of our intercessions—getting off our selfish interests to include others, our community, nation, and world. Hearing God’s word in the community of believers exposes us to the thoughts, insights and opinions of others. Celebrating Holy Communion highlights the truth that God never stressed individual relationships, but instead lifted up the family and community aspects of God’s kingdom.
When I come back from vacation I am usually reenergized to face the challenges that the days and weeks ahead will bring. When I step out of the door of the church, I am also refreshed and reenergized to face life’s triumphs and trials.
I can’t imagine what life without the opportunity and hope of vacations would be like. Nor, can I imagine what life without worship—both personal and corporate would be like. Really, I don’t want to find out.