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Friday, November 23, 2012

Chosen


Give thanks  to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
and glory in your praise.”
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
     Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.”
    David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly....
    David left Zadok  the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place in Gibeon to present burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law  of the LORD, which he had given Israel. With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the LORD, “for his love endures forever.”
-1 Chronicles 16:34-41 (NIV)

“Chosen.” The word screams privilege. Pride of place.
    The Chosen are the winners, the last ones standing.
    The Chosen are the acclaimed, the preferred, the admired.
   The Chosen are nominated for office. They win the elections. The chosen are picked for the teams. They’re invited to lunch with the In Crowd. They’re the ones everyone wants to be.
    The Chosen receive the honors and awards. They address the largest crowds. Star in the leading roles. Their names are known and celebrated, their accomplishments recounted, rehashed, and renowned.
    Although I guess that kind of depends on what you’re chosen for.
    You probably wouldn’t have known the names of Heman (no, He-Man is a different guy) or Jeduthun, for instance. Not exactly household names. For all we know, though, in ancient Israel they may have been the Justin Biebers or Taylor Swifts of their day. They were apparently musicians and singers. And they were chosen. Hand-picked by King David himself.
    So why don’t we know much about them?
    Because they were chosen to “give thanks to the LORD.” Seriously, if you want to make a name for yourself, it seems that being chosen to give thanks to God is a dead-end career path.  
    When David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the royal city of Jerusalem, he relocated several of the worship leaders from the old Tabernacle in Gibeah to Jerusalem as well. But since there was still an altar at Gibeah, he wanted to make sure worship kept happening there, as well. And so he assigned Heman and Jeduthun the task of “giv[ing] thanks to the LORD” there at the old site. The text says he chose them “by name,” in fact. He knew them, or knew of them. He knew something about them. And he thought they would be the perfect guys to use their musical skills to lead God’s people in worship at Gibeah.    
    They didn’t get to go to Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant to lead worship at the new, exciting site. They were stuck at Gibeah, in the old Tabernacle that would soon be phased out in favor of the temple in David’s city. (Asaph and some others got that gig...) They were Chosen. But not to gain honor for themselves. They were chosen to give honor and praise and thanks to God.
    Thinking about Heman and Jeduthun, I’m sorry, but I have to think of worship in the church today - or, rather, what passes for worship. We seem unable to think of worship in any terms other than that of our own preferences in music and style. It’s a “good” worship service if it suits our musical sensibilities, or if the preacher is the right mixture of eloquent, down-to-earth, and brief. It’s a “good” worship service if it makes us feel the way we think we should feel after worship. And, if not...well, we “just didn’t get anything out of it this week.”
    As if the burning question is what we got out of it.
    Churches actually split today over what style of worship is “better” or “more biblical” or whatever adjective forms the basis of evaluation. As if the trendiest styles won’t be completely different in five years’ time. As if “Here I Am to Worship” won’t sound as dated to my son as “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus” sounds to me.
    The fact is that you and I have been chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the LORD. Our musical preferences are secondary to that. What we get out of it is secondary to that. Our experience has conditioned us to treat most everything as a performance for our evaluation. But, in worship, if there are performers, then we’re among them. And if there’s an evaluation, then it’s God’s to give. Every bit as much as Heman and Jeduthun, you and I have been given the responsibility of praising God and encouraging others to do the same.
    That’s Paul’s point in his amazing opening to the book of Ephesians. In verses 11 and 12, he reminds us that we’ve been chosen in Jesus, and that we’ve been chosen for a purpose - “for the praise of his glory.” We aren’t chosen just so that we’ll feel a certain way. We aren’t chosen for our own individual benefit and blessing. We aren’t even chosen just because Jesus loves us and wants to be with us forever, as sometimes we like to say. We’re chosen to give God the glory and honor and gratitude that he is due.
    We’re chosen “for the praise of his glory,” so that the world can hear the name of God and the name of Jesus ringing with thanksgiving and honor and glory.
    Our worship services should encourage us, yes. But our preferences, our feelings, our self-expression aren’t the point. The point is that God is praised and thanked, that the name of Jesus is lifted up and glorified. If we don’t do it, who will? If the world doesn’t hear God’s name glorified and praised among us, where will they hear it?
    Of course, they won’t hear it if it only happens when we’re behind closed doors, in our own isolated communities. If God’s new tabernacle is Jesus, present in the lives of his people through the Holy Spirit, then our responsibility to give thanks to him and worship him doesn’t end with the last “Amen” as we head out to lunch on Sundays. It’s for every day of our lives, every part of our lives. We’re always on call as those chosen and designated by name - through Jesus Christ - to give thanks to the Lord.
    We are among the Chosen. May we be found faithful to our calling.

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