Article: Worship: Whose hands?
Worship: Whose hands?
The third of our regular NWW atricles is from the Royal New Zealand Air Force Hellicopter flying(!)Tim Costley. Tim serves at All Saints Church, Palmerston North and is part of the NewWine family. Thank you Tim for a great message and prep for Easter!
Worship: Whose Hands?
One of my favourite passages is John 21. It’s this beautiful poetic moment where Jesus meets His disciples for one of the last times after His resurrection, and it’s an exact replica of the first time He called them (Luke 5). The disciples have been fishing all night (again), they’ve caught nothing (again), Jesus sends them back out (again), they catch more fish than they can handle (again), and finally they realise who they’re dealing with. There are so many symbolic aspects to this chapter, and also so much madness. When you read it in detail it really is crazy, like when Peter puts on his outer clothes, then jumps in the ocean, swims next to the boat for a while, and then climbs back into the boat before following the disciples ashore. What was the point of that?! I guess when we see Jesus sometimes we get a bit excited and don’t always think straight.
To save me writing way too long about this, I just want to make two really simple points. In verse 10, Jesus asks the disciples to bring some of the fish they’ve caught. Simple enough. But this is the crazy bit, have a read of the whole thing again. Notice verse 9? Jesus is sitting on the shore, and is already cooking breakfast (fish!) on the shore. The disciples bring Him the fish, but Jesus already has His own.
So this is point 1: God wants your fish, but God doesn’t need your fish.
When we worship, particularly when we volunteer so much of our time and energy to serve our local church, it really does feel like we’re working hard to create worship, or at least an environment conducive to worship. And when it goes well, when the congregation really chooses to engage, sometimes it feels like “Success! What a relief. God was worshipped this morning!” And we should be encouraged by that. God wants our fish, and God wants our worship, because He is so worthy of it. But… When we worship we are simply joining in an eternal song sung by all creation since the beginning of time. There are so many passages (I love Job 26) that speak of how great He is, and how all creation joins this song: the sun, the moon, the stars, even the rocks (Luke 19). And Daniel 7 tells us every nation and tribe and tongue join for eternity to continue this song.
We don’t create worship, it doesn’t happen because of us, we’re simply choosing to join in.
It’s a mix of humbling and daunting, and it can seem like God doesn’t even need our worship and in one sense whether my church of 100 joins in or not won’t stop Him being God, being worthy, or being praised. But, God still wants our fish; because He is God, because He is worthy, because He can’t be God and not be worshipped. Still, I find this passage a humbling reminder that God’s worth isn’t reliant on what I do on a Sunday, and yet here is an invitation to be part of it and to bring whatever we’ve got.
Which leads me to point 2: God wants our fish, God doesn’t need our fish. Sounds familiar, right?
When I was younger, I loved fishing, and I’m about to buy a fishing rod to teach my three little girls to fish. But when I was 13 or 14 all I ever caught off the beach in New Zealand was these little herrings; not exactly renowned as a great eating fish. Mum was so kind, and would teach me to fillet them and then cook them and the family would pretend to enjoy what was essentially a bunch of tiny fish bones just waiting to find lodgement in your throat, surrounded by some pretty bland fish – and not a lot of it. And then 15 years later I was on a work trip (I have a cool job!) down to Stewart Island (google it), and we spent an afternoon fishing. It was the most amazing fishing ever. You’d drop the line over the side and then reel it straight in and a couple of good-sized blue cod would have politely jumped onto your line. We ended up flying home with an entire chilly bin (ice box/eski/cooler) full of perfectly filleted fresh blue cod. AND THEY WERE AMAZING. The best fish I’ve ever eaten (with no bones!); I can’t explain in word form how good they were. Anyway, there’s a point to this.
When I bring God my fish, or my worship, or my fairly average singing voice and under-practised church band with no drums or bass or professional musicians, I feel like I’m bringing Him those herrings I caught as a teenager.. And yet this is the amazing part. Jesus is sitting on the beach, inviting me to bring what I have, but He’s already cooking His own fish. And His fish are like that fresh New Zealand blue cod straight from the depths of Foveaux Strait (you can google that too). When we bring our offerings to God, somehow there is a miraculous transformation that takes place. Our weakness becomes His strength. God isn’t limited by our ability, but instead He can use our availability to bless others.
Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about what's in our hands, we forget what's in His.
The key is that we come, we offer, we join in, not waiting till we reach perfection, because to be honest, I’m never going to get there, musically or any other way.
So what’s the point to all of this? God wants our fish, but God doesn’t need our fish. He wants our worship because He is God, but He will be worshipped whether or not we decide to join in that eternal song. And yet there it is, the invitation to join in anyway. And despite the fact that we may feel insufficient, unworthy, or incompetent, and we’ll never be as good as that other church down the road, the invitation is still there. Because the only thing God wants more than us joining in, is simply that: us. And when we bring the little we have to offer (think of the old lady in Mark 12), the three chords we know on guitar, a slightly shaky voice, and some basic piano skills (as long as we only need to use the white keys), God does something amazing and transforms seemingly ordinary offerings into holy moments, and worship that can bless and encourage others as they too respond to the revelation of God in their midst.
The disciples were a shambles, Peter was soaking wet with no dry clothes left to put on over the top, and they’d failed to learn the lessons of the last three years. And yet they shared one of the most amazing breakfasts in history. Perhaps when we come together to worship our God we might just catch a glimpse of what it was like to see Him face to face. Not because we are needed, but because we are wanted and we are invited; not because our music and songs are worthy, but because He is.