My earliest memories of church are almost all about what I wore—a gray velvet dress stood out clearly at three. As I grew older, I became aware of things in the service beyond our pew, but in a very limited way. Baptisms were exciting; the Lord’s Supper was confusing. The minister, like an adult from a “Peanuts” cartoon, seemed to be mumbling away at the front of the church.
As I grew older, I started realizing that my father (by then my pastor) was actually speaking English. Words—“heaven,” “David,” “forgive”—came through. I slowly understood more, until one day, I heard and understood an entire sermon. It wasn’t just random words; he was really saying something.
Years passed, and I realized that sermons were not just coherent “messages” about God, but sessions that equipped God’s people to understand how His Word works and fits together and how to live out of it. Corporate prayers made more and more spiritual sense. Songs were articulate praise. I saw baptism as the new covenant sign that God places on His covenant people, and that in the Lord’s Supper, we don’t get a different Christ than in the preaching, but the same Christ in a different way. The liturgy became beautiful as I saw the theological logic in it.
Regardless of our chronological age at conversion, this happens, doesn’t it? We move from merely being aware of what is happening to understanding it, becoming more and more involved spiritually, and having the Word shape us more and more deeply. It’s a waking up to what is happening around us. People come to realizations at unique times in a variety of sequences, depending on their age, background, and other factors. But God uses Sundays to change every believer.
Comprehending what happens in a service is simply a means to an end. Understanding all of these elements allows us to wake up to the reality of who God is—and that is exactly why worship is transforming and sustaining. In a biblical service, each element of corporate worship is designed to give us a vision of our Lord, freeing us to respond through worship in acceptable, prescribed ways. There is an inverse relationship between becoming more conscious of God’s person and work and less conscious of our person and work. The idol of self dies as our knowledge of the only wise God expands. Self-absorption gives way to self-forgetfulness through divine awareness.
Sunday after Sunday, my Sabbath consciousness increases. When we reach glory, all of these realizations will seem like early-morning stirrings compared to heaven’s bright clarity. There, all clouds will vanish in the light, as weekly foretastes give way to eternal wakefulness.
But the greatness of that day does not diminish the significance of our weekly preparations here. God gives us each Sunday to make us fit for future reality. The day that God created the light is still a day when darkness fades. Let’s be attentive—weekly, corporate worship is God’s tool to kindly wake our sleepy souls.