Worship With Your Eyes Open
Because we are modern we tend to view the world through the lens of the individual. This individualistic view of reality is unfortunately true of many "Christian" worldviews as well. We think of terms like grace, sin, blessing, judgement, and covenant almost exclusively in an individualistic manner. This individualistic bent permeates our modern worship services. From the lyrics of our worship songs to the message of our sermons, our services revolve around the individual.
The Christian view of the world certainly does have a perspective on the individual. Moreover, individuals as individuals should be addressed in Christian discipleship. However, we do a great injustice in our day by framing the entire Christian faith around the individual. Like it or not, the Christian faith isn't all about you or me. In fact the Christian faith emphasizes the old paradox that one truly finds themselves (individually) only when they are lost in Christ. C.S. Lewis has an outstanding quote along these very lines.
In love we escape from our self into one other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person's place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favor of the facts as they are. The primary impulse of each is to maintain and aggrandize himself. The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness. In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this. Obviously this process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; 'he that loseth his life shall save it'. (An Experiment in Criticism, pg. 138)
Christianity is about love because "God is love" (1 John 4:8). The reason God is love is because God has eternally loved in the persons of the Trinity. Love is relational. There can be no love without an object to love. This means that the only way love can be eternal is for love to have always had an object. Trinitarian faith claims that God the Father has eternally bestowed His love on God the Son. Further, because love is the giving of one's self, the love that the Father bestows on the Son is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This is the foundational to the Christian faith and, thus should be central to how Christians approach Christian worship.
(Note: This view of the Trinity was put forward by Augustine and not universally embraced)
Christian worship must shun individualism because the center of Christianity is Trinitarian love and Trinitarian love is a movement out of one's self toward others. All of this brings me to the title of this post: Worship With Your Eyes Open. Christian worship should emphasize the congregation of God's people as a group, the Body of Christ, and not merely a collection of individuals. This means that when Christians gather to worship they should not only be aware of one another but should be acutely aware of each other.
So much of modern worship tends to allow the individual to go through the entire service without even knowing their are other people in the room. The lights are turned off so one cannot see other members of the Christ's Body. The subwoofers are turned up so one cannot hear the other members of Christ's Body. Further, for the few Christian congregations that do celebrate the Lord's Supper on a weekly basis, the act is vaunted as a time for the individual to commune with God and God alone.
In all of these things the individual is the center of the "Christian" worship service. Christian worship should not be a place and a time where our eyes are mostly closed. NO! Rather, our eyes should be open to behold the grace of God. When the lights are on and the speakers are off one realizes that there are others along side you who are loving God and loving you. Christ's Body is truly acting as a body as they worship in unison together rather than as an amalgam of dissonant members.
God's grace is at work in your life Christian, but it's at work in the lives of the other members of your congregation as well. Encouragement and mutual edification increases exponentially when you open your eyes to see how much bigger God's grace is than your own small life. Keep your eyes open Christian.
Food for thought.