During my message from Micah 6 this past Sunday, I addressed the connection between worship and justice. In that text, the people ask an important question, one that we would do well to ask today: “with what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?”
I discovered that the people of Judah wrestled with some of the same things we struggle with today when it comes to worship: bigger is better. Whether it is thousands of rams offered with ten thousand rivers of oil or a bigger band with a better sound system driving the worship engine – far to often we elevate our worship on externals.
“But He has shown all you people that is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Francis Chan shared the following story during his talk on courage at the David Crowder Fantastical Church Music Conference.It is a powerful reminder of why worship must be more than just singing.
In his book, When a Nation Forgets God, Erwin Lutzer shared an eyewitness account of how some church members reacted to the Nazism of their times:
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it because what could we do to stop it. A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance, and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars. Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews in route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church,we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.” And then the eyewitness shared with Pastor Lutzer, “ Although years have passed, I still hear the train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me, forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.”
How does worship drown out the cries of the needy in our world? Why is it easier to sing louder than get involved in the work of justice? What would it mean to stop singing and actually start worshiping?