We must get out of our minds the warped idea that our corporate worship assemblies are human performances for our Creator. We must rid our brains of the distorted notion that our Father sits back on Sunday mornings to soak up our praise as we sing and pray, that he just watches and smiles as we commune around his table. We should work to remove from our vocabulary the damaging phrase “audience of one.”
Ever since the emergence of sin and death stained our God’s perfect creation, he has sought to redeem that creation by dwelling with them, by being fully present with them. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us the Father dwelt in the temple in Israel. John says the Son dwelt with us in the flesh. Paul says the Spirit dwells inside redeemed saints. And we know from Revelation that the mission of the Triune God is to live with his people, for his people to be in his holy presence, for ever and ever.
This is what happens when we assemble.
As children of God and followers of Jesus, our Christian gatherings take place in the presence of the Father, in the name of the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we come together we draw near to God, we enjoy his presence with us. The writer of Hebrews says our assemblies are done in the presence of God. It’s God with us. Us with God. A mutual, communal event. Our assemblies are sacramental events, sacramental encounters with the true and living God.
Our God is active during our worship. He is working. Working. Working. He is placing his holy Word exactly where it needs to go; convicting, challenging, encouraging, motivating, comforting. He is giving us the hearts and the breath to sing songs of praise to him and edification to one another. He is inspiring us with the right sentences and paragraphs. He is changing us in the meal. He is shaping us through prayer. His Spirit groans with us. His Son intercedes for us. He is mediating his grace in the water and the bread and the wine. He makes our meager and shallow offerings worthy of his eternal glory. He is present in every handshake and hug. God is moving and doing. He is removing scales from our eyes in worship. He is revealing himself to us in brand new ways. He is reminding us of his wondrous love and matchless grace. He serves us and eats with us at the table. He molds us and forms us more and more into the perfect image of his Son.
Our Father is no audience during our worship. He is the instigator, the inviter, the host, the blesser, the giver, the sustainer, and the finisher.
There is no audience in worship. There is holy community and redemption. There is salvation work. There is God with us. But no audience.
P.S. This is my first P.S. in almost five years of regular blogging: YOU are definitely not the audience in worship, either. I know you already know that. But it probably still needs to be said.