“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!'” (Luke 1:39-45)
When I grew up in church, I was taught that God was the starting point of the worship. Our gatherings began with God’s invitation (call to worship) to which we responded with silent prayer. God announced His blessing to which we responded with an AMEN and a praise song. The rest of the service went on like that: God speaks, we respond.
This pattern is, I believe, rooted in both creation and in our own DNA. This world, and humans, were designed to respond to God’s gracious self-disclosure. As we experience God’s greatness or goodness, that experience provokes a response within us: wow, thank You, awesome, yikes, oh my, etc.
How we experience God will happen in a variety of ways. We’ve become blinded to God’s self-disclosure. We don’t realize that every breath, our being alive, our having bodies, every aspect and dimension of the physical, social and spiritual world, it is all God’s self-disclosure, God’s gift. If we realized this, we would always be responding, always be worshipping.
In this passage Elizabeth had a very unique God-experience. The fact that she was pregnant itself was one, but on this day when Mary visited her, she encountered God’s grace in a remarkable way. She did not know the story about Mary’s pregnancy, but Jesus’ presence in Mary’s womb was enough to impact her, and the baby in her womb. Think about it, the unborn John encounters God in Jesus, and leaps for joy in the womb. Elizabeth responds to her baby’s response, and voices her wonder and joy with her threefold “blessed” declarations. She senses that through all this that the Lord has come to her.
Sometimes I will experience a wow moment when I see a sunrise, or a baby smiling, or after a walk along the river or in the park. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction and blessing, and I might even say wow out loud. Properly speaking, this is worship – my responding to the greatness and goodness of God – yet do I really think of it this way? Am I conscious of God in this moment, this God-moment? Do I give voice to my wonder and joy by coming out with my own “blessed” declarations?
I personally believe we have a screwed up understanding worship. We come to church to find worship. We look to the minister or the worship team to give us a reason to worship. We should not come to church to find a reason to worship; we should come overflowing with our many experiences of God through the week, primed and ready to express our response. Hearing others will only add to our own reasons.
Every day, even every moment, there are God reasons to respond with worship. Stop for a moment and look around, take a deep breath, flex your fingers, taste that coffee, feel the temperature of where you are. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, or can’t do, start with where you are, what you can do, what you do have. Feel the grace of God in these normal, everyday, taken-for-granted things. Then respond to God somehow – sing, dance, praise, clap, smile, tell someone, or just savor the moment with God. Let this experience be the beginning of your worship. As the week unfolds, you will find more reasons to express your gratitude and joy. By the time you get to church, you will be busting with “10,000 reasons” to bless the Lord with your whole being.
As you experience God today – wherever you are, whatever you do – may something leap inside of you, and may you be filled with His Spirit as you bless the Lord like Elizabeth did.