Light and Worship
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
Live as Servants of God1
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
The countdown came onto the screen as the lights begin to dim. The latest hits playing in the background began to slowly fade away as the guitar amplifiers hummed. There was a hiss and a cloud of gray smoke plumed out into the stage and suddenly everyone grew quiet around. Worship was about to begin.
I’m one of those odd ducks who sits at the end of Generation X and the beginning of the millennial generation. Culture sometimes moves a little slower in smaller, poorer, and/or more rural areas like the one I grew up in and I remember when I first got to college and began meeting some true millennials, I was a bit shocked at some of their differences. The scene I described above would be a dream come true for ‘gen X’ers, I think, but for millennials it probably just seems normal.
Well, actually no, let me amend that. I think they probably would get rid of the fog machine because it seems a bit too “performance driven” and inauthentic. They might replace the timer with a professional video of a church leader sharing a testimony/advertisement for the theme of the current month’s sermon series. The guitars are still there, but they are balanced more with keyboard synths, and the music overall has slowed down. Gen X wanted to jump and shout, while the new worshippers want to sway with God like a middle school slow dance.
I’m an odd duck, and I see humor in much of it. But I also so some great similarities as well. The younger generations might argue about the song selection and setup of the chairs, but the one thing they will all agree on is the light switch needs to be turned off. We want it dark in our worship spaces. We want to forget everyone else around us and create an environment of intimacy. The only light needs to be coming from the words on the screen, and we want to fill the space around those words with beautiful paintings of light, depicting the great creativity of our God.
We see a similar attitude from our older worshippers who love to attend candlelight vigil services, often around Christmas time. Shut the lights off and let’s create an intimate setting where we lose track of everyone but me and God, and the pretty lights all around. We want to lose ourselves and all the burdens we carry in the daytime, and we want to be caught up in the beautiful darkness around us. Maybe we learned it from the nightclubs and speakeasies of the Prohibition era as many former addicts became Christians and sought to attract in those looking for escape from life as they knew it.
I don’t really know where it all came from or why it lingers on. What I do know is that scripture calls us people who have come out of the darkness and now walk in the light. I’m not opposed to worshipping in dark rooms. I just wonder what it says about those of us who cannot worship outside of them, in the light of day. Peter, and God before him in Exodus, calls us a royal priesthood and a holy nation – those who worship on behalf of others. We do not live as Christians in their place, as substitutes. We live as Christians to be examples, to lead them to Christ. Do we do that in our worship, or are we lost in the dark, trying to lose ourselves and everyone around us?
I think Jesus Himself probably stated it the best:
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Where do you find the light of God?
Do you allow that light to shine through you in your worship?
- (Cp Rom 13:1–5) ↩