(Today’s post by James Rooks)
Psalms 95 & 96
I’ve often felt conflicted this time of year. For most of us, you can feel the summer beginning to slip away as school starts back. With part regret and part hope we stand on the edge of summertime fun and the beginning of the 2nd best season of the year…Football Season. The change in season from summer to Fall/Football season is not my source of conflict; it is something that happens within the actual football games that gets to me. For those that know me well, you know I’m a football fanatic. I’m not just a fan of my favorite team, but I’m a fan of the X’s and O’s, the game within the game. I love strategy, and I love the work that goes into playing and coaching the game. So it isn’t the game or strategy that give me trouble, it’s the fans. Fans are passionate about their teams, and I think that’s a good thing for the most part. But there’s an interesting dynamic that I’ve seen play out on college football weekends over the past few years that I think is not alright.
We make it up to Athens for Georgia games a couple times a year, and I’ve been able to be a part of some memorable moments at Sanford Stadium with the “Bulldawg Nation”. In November of 2007, I was there for the “Blackout” game vs. Auburn, and it certainly was a special night! The energy in the stadium pre-game was off the charts, and when the team finally left the tunnel and entered the field, they were met by over 90,000 screaming fans with an ovation that lasted for several minutes. Georgia went on to win the game. Fans cheered until their voices were gone, and everyone went home. The next morning a good portion of those 90,000 fans got up and went to their respective churches and stood there with their hands in their pockets mouthing the words to praise songs.
This dynamic is what troubles me. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but on one of these ‘football’ weekends, I looked around and realized that many are cheering wildly on Saturdays for something that is very temporary and then acting indifferent about something that has eternal consequences on Sundays. This isn’t a finger pointing blog post directed only at other people; I’ve been guilty of this too. I’m not letting fans of other sports off the hook either. Have any of you ever been to the ball field for a little league baseball game? Parents go NUTS for their kid’s teams. Some of those same parents show up and just fill a seat in the sanctuary of their church…no cheering and no passion.
My opinion is that we have an innate, God given, hard wired capacity to go bananas about the things that we care deeply about. The problem lies in where we direct our passion. Don’t mistake passion for dedication, loyalty, or reverence. Passion in this sense translates to a visible physical response. If someone sits next to me at a Georgia game, they would have no doubts about me being fired up to be there.
Today’s passage in Psalm 95 and 96 deals with our outward expression of worship. Seven times in Psalm 95 and then 11 times in Psalm 96 the psalmist describes worship as a visible and outward (enthusiastic) expression.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with songs of thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms (songs).
The rest of these two chapters is dedicated to describing why we should do these things. The answer is eye opening. Our visible enthusiastic act of worship isn’t to let others see our passion for God. It isn’t even for things that God has done for us. We are told to worship God outwardly because of who He is.
3 For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods, 4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. 5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land. … 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalms 95:3-5, 7 NASB
So should our response to the greatness of God be folded arms, hands in pockets, lip syncing? The Bible says, NO. Knowing first-hand how deeply and visibly we care about the things we love, we have no excuse to take the same hands that wildly clap for touchdowns and put them in our pockets when it comes to celebrating someone truly great on Sunday mornings.