Corporate Worship: A Lifting of the Gaze
I had preached the funeral of their baby just a few days before. Some of our best friends laid to rest their little girl, marking one of the most difficult days of my life. While preaching graveside, my eyes rested on my wife, dressed in black, who we knew was in the process of miscarrying a child.
Now, the Sunday after had come. I had chosen songs to remind them, to remind me, of God’s faithfulness and goodness in the midst of suffering. It is difficult to sing with sorrow in your throat.
What our friends did not need were three tips to overcome pain, or a weightless song that may pacify for a moment. What they needed, what I needed, was to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. We needed a lifting of our gaze.
Lifted Gaze, Lifted Heart
In Psalm 121, the psalmist feels this tension as he ascends to the temple to worship. Along the journey, we find him in need of remembering where his help is found. He sings to his heart to remind it to hope in God.
In the opening line of his hymn, he asks his soul a question that demands a sure response. “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1–2). When the gaze of the psalmist is low, he is filled with doubts and questions. When his gaze is lifted up, his heart is lifted up also.
Any Given Sunday
Corporate worship is a lifting of the gaze from created things to the uncreated one. On any given Sunday morning, as people walk into the room, questions come with them.
Is there grace enough for someone like me?
Will my marriage make it through this?
Has God forgotten me?
Amidst the singing, there are other songs being sung: songs of pain and suffering, songs of doubt and fear, songs of desperate need. These songs may not ring through the microphone, but they are there. The resounding theme of each of these songs is simple: we need to behold God.
Renew Your Hope
Corporate worship reminds us that our hope is not fixed on anything less than our sovereign God. There is a tendency in all of us to forget our neediness. Like the psalmist, we question where our help comes from and must be continually reminded of the source of our hope. We are easily distracted. We are lulled to sleep by the idols of comfort and self-sufficiency. We are prone to forget that Christ is the sure and steady anchor in the fury of every storm.
We gather together in worship to have our eyes set upon Christ. The hand of the gospel lifts our drooping head to remember that in Christ the acceptance of God has been fixed upon us. The weekly practice of hearing the gospel in song and in sermon clears the hazy effects of sin from our eyes and focuses our hearts on the glory of God. Lifting our gaze brings clarity to us of who God is and who we are as his people.
Allow corporate worship to help renew your hope in God. In the call to worship, call your heart to worship. In the confession of sin, lift your gaze to Christ whose blood has satisfied the wrath of God. In the preaching of God’s word, hear the gospel and allow it to echo through the chambers of your soul. In the benediction, be sent into the world to remember the glorious and steadfast hope that is ours in Christ.
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