Waking Up: Worship and Justice in a Messed-Up World
I have a friend who sleep walks. Some nights he actually gets out of bed, walks down stairs, goes into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator, eats a snack and then goes back to bed. But he doesn’t remember a thing in the morning. I’ve since heard of people doing all kinds of strange things in their sleep—sleep calling, sleep texting, sleep driving. I heard about one person who even sleep walked into a shower pajamas and all, and then turned the water on. At that point he woke up!
Unfortunately, many of us go through life asleep. We are asleep to the people around us. Asleep to the needs of the world and most of all, asleep to God.
In his book The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice, Mark Labberton writes, “Worship is what happens when people wake up!” It is a “dangerous act of waking up to God and to the purposes of God in the world, and then living lives that actually show it,” he says.
The problem is, we are so absorbed in our own busy lives, our own local lives, our own inner lives, or even our own ministry lives, that we are sleep walking. Sometimes we sleep walk right into church oblivious to the most important realities of life.
Sometimes those who plan our worship are sleepy. The prayers are self centered. Song texts are all focused on personal concerns. The preaching avoids the issues that concerned the prophets. Our services are safe and predictable. The only time we get aroused is over small stuff, such as music styles or carpet color, not the bug stuff, like justice, mercy, and the weightiness of God.
When a church is asleep it enters worship with a forgetfulness about the lostness of the lost and the brokenness of the broken. It loses touch with the fact that we live in 911 world. Even today, the world is in a state of emergency racked with tremendous suffering and pain. As we gather today, one-sixth of the world lives in absolute poverty. Each year nearly 1 million children are sold or forced into the sex traffic trade. This house thousands will die from starvation. Hundreds from malaria, malnutrition, genocide, and HIV/AIDS. Some time ago I read that in the last hour 2,738 people died from starvation, 342 people died from malaria, 76 mothers died from childbirth issues, 9,582 babies died from induced abortion, 8,898 infants and children were abandoned, and 20 Christians were martyred.
Worship should wake us up to the reality of a just and holy God who will judge the world in righteousness. Yet he is also the God who hears the cries of the needy.
Worship should remind us of the realities of a broken world, while at the same time showing us the character of the one true God. It should remind us that he heals the brokenhearted, forgives the truly penitent, and specializes in putting broken pieces back together again in Christ.
Worship should be like that guy who went sleep walking right into the shower. When the water turned on, he woke up!
Awake worship brings us to our senses. It can’t ignore the needs of this world. Neither can it ignore the gospel, because Christ is the hope of the world. Gospel hope is broad and deep. It addresses both the needs of my life and the groaning of creation.
Awake worship doesn’t send us away comfortably the same. It transforms us. It sends us away changed. Awake worship reminds us to “learn to do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” Is. 1:17-18. Then it dismisses us with the call, not just to speak good news, but to be good news to those around us.