Worship is more than singing a song. It’s how you live, what you choose, Who you walk with.
Worship flows from a heart of thanksgiving that delights in the expansive encounter of knowing Father God. It’s the joy of knowing Jesus. It’s the grace of discovering Holy Spirit.
I started worshiping at eight years old under the kind care of beloved Sister Theresa Casey, whose fierce love for kids and God packed a powerful punch as she managed the Junior Church Choir. There, in Precious Blood Cathedral, up in that old balcony with those loud creaking floorboards, ten of us Catholic kids between ages eight and eighteen would belt our hearts out as Sister Theresa’s blue-veined hands and brown shoe clad feet pumped music through the massive brass pipe organ. When it was my Sunday turn to sing the psalm between the first and second reading, my clear small voice, amplified by the microphone attached to the balcony rail, would bounce off the blue painted ceiling and stained glass windows down to my parents below. I would sing as loud as I could, with a sicktight stomach but heartful wonder, “We shall draw wa—ter, from the springs of salvation”, and then feel the flush of God as He drew near. I wondered if they felt Him too.
For ten years, I sang at church and encountered God, though I remained a rascal in many ways. Sister Theresa had solemnly told us that “Singing is praying twice.” and we believed her. As we sang ” I am the Bread of Life” and “Sing a New Song Unto the Lord”, we just expected that as we prayed, as we sang, that God was listening. I think He was.
When I left my faith and wandered in despair and then returned back to God, worship was different. In the Pentecostal church that I attended, I was shocked, then delighted to hear drums and electric guitars keeping tempo as choruses celebrating the intimacy of God were sung by people hungry for God. “As a Deer Panteth for the Water”, “Jesus, Holy and Anointed One”, and “I Exalt You” were powerful songs that broke my weary heart open before God and allowed Him to wash me clean as He brought me to a place of hope once again. As I learnt to lift my hands and then my heart and then my whole life to Jesus, worship became an entry point to God Himself. Often He met me in that intimate place of tears and repentance in worship.
After over a decade of fellowship at Trinity Church, we moved onto another church family and I discovered the joy of worship in community in loud vibrant measures. Oshawa Community Church is a passionate church which celebrates the joy of freedom in Christ. Most Sundays, the entire front of the church is filled with jumping, dancing worshipers who are singing and shouting to floor thumping rhythms rejoicing in God as their Everything. At first, I was uncomfortable with all the jostling and grinning and hugging. Then I started looking forward to it. The joy of united worship, the thrill of passionate expression of thanks to God with like-hearted believers shifted me forward, out of my isolation and into a real place of growing together.
After a few years, God moved us to the far side of the region to attend a heart-filled church called The Bridge. Worship started at the door when you were hugged and then hugged again by a team of loving mothering women of God. By the time you got into the sanctuary, you were already thankful, you had been loved so thoroughly. The beauty of the sanctuary, with its seascapes from capital cities positioned the global worship of Christ the King. Prayed up, passionate musicians would lead the congregation into the presence of God every Sunday, with a consistency that reflected the hundred year-plus DNA of a church equally passionate about the Word and the souls who needed to encounter Him. I started flagging with banners as my young children twirled and danced around me in that church, spinning jewel-toned silks and cottons with passion as I prayed and interceded in tempo with the large worship team. In that church, I grew to worship the King for His Greatness, His Beauty and His Holiness in a loving community of believers who poured out love in word and in deed upon our family.
These days, at the Lord’s bidding, we attend a church in the northern part of Durham Region, a humble holy church called Victory Christian Centre. It’s a small church, not well equipped with a large team of musicians, but the heart – it’s breathtaking.The worship team passionately loves God with everything they have. Sometimes I long for musicians to flood the church and take their beautiful worship and just add to it. Then I laugh, because in the simplicity of our heart cry for “more God”, God just keeps stooping down and joining us there. I consider this church a Bethlehem church, a humble obscure place where the stable is readied in humility and grace, as we all wait for Him to take His place in our lives and change the world.
About two years ago, as I began writing my blog, I discovered WorshipMob from Colorado Springs. This team of over a hundred musicians from twenty-five churches and countless intercessors combine prayer and worship, heart and skill to release a holy sound, a heavenly sound that is both anointed and gracious. They are using their platform on YouTube to impact believers all across the globe. One of the WorshipMobbers wrote on their blog:
“Worship is a direct response to what Jesus has done in our lives. This is the focus of WorshipMob. The people you see on the videos each have a unique story of how Jesus has intersected their lives and redeemed them for His purposes. We are far from perfect, but we are very much loved by God and by each other.A good friend of mine gave me a huge compliment after I finished a set at my home church. He said, “You worship like a man who has been redeemed from much.” I have.”
I, too, have been redeemed from much. I have sinned and sinned some more, yet my God loves me and tenderly draws me near, again and again. Not only that, but worship changes our lives, as we encounter the Living God and His great love for us.
Sister Theresa is in heaven now. She is probably singing in heaven’s choir, maybe even playing the organ once in a while. I owe her a debt of love for starting my journey to God, for teaching me to worship with integrity, even at the young age of eight. I am so thankful for all the worship experiences I have encountered in this love walk with God: The intimacy of my friend Patty singing her heart out with the classic guitar. The bravado of Pastor Andrew encouraging the worship team to just try and write some music for Jesus, and we did. The joy of Pastor Frank as he jumps and dances and celebrates God as one large Brazilian embrace together with his Canadian church family. The exquisite sound of beautiful Amy and Jes as they would ascend higher and higher in soulful songs to the Lord on a Wednesday night prayer meeting. The sweet presence of God meeting us on a Sunday morning as we relaxed and enjoyed the welcome we felt every time we came to the Bridge.
Goodness, I have been blessed on this journey.
I have warred and danced and sung my heart out in Canadian Caribbean church, danced a jig in Quebec city with worshipers from across the nation, clapped and stomped in African Church for many hours in Accra and swayed to the sweet hymns by young worshipers in supplication to the Lord in Bangalore, India. I have sung and wept and prayed in tight-packed house churches in Trinidad with choruses that must have melted the heavens above. I have laid in silence en masse at TACF as God moved upon us all. And God came down to us all.
The Word says in Psalm 22: 2, “But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.” This verse comes from the same psalm that Christ groaned, “My God, My God – why have you forsaken Me?” In Hebrew tradition, when a Jew recited a line from a psalm, the people knew the rest. Hear what Christ was saying to us all as He worshiped His Father unto obedience, even death on the cross:
I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death…. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me… I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard. My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. (NKJV Ps 22)
O worship the King, for He has done it! He has redeemed us and set us free! However you worship, let it be with everything you have, for Christ our King is worth it. Whether sitting, standing, dancing, or laying before God in silence, may you meet Him in that place of adoration and be changed forever.