“Less is more . . .”
I knew what the pastor meant in his words to me at a conference that I spoke at recently. He was talking about having worship be simpler, more direct. But, as I pointed out to him, he misspoke.
A movement in the church is a desire to return it to its primordial mode of Acts 2. The background research is excellent, and I think that its model closely portrays the early Christian church. In view of the Simple Church movement, where does the act of worship fall?
Simple? Maybe. . . Less? Never.
Throughout scripture we see the act of worship as an extravagant act. The first time worship is ever mentioned is in the book of Genesis. Abraham and Isaac are to ascend Mt. Moriah, and Abraham told his men, “I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you.” Gen 22:5 (BBE). Abraham then with an unimaginable heaviness strode up the mountain with his son for a supreme sacrifice. But God would provide the ram; making God, in the fourteenth verse, Jehovah-Jireh – The LORD will provide. Extravagant worship is often given at great sacrifice.
One cannot possibly point at passages in 2 Chronicles 5, 2 Chronicles 29 or the complexity and subtlety of the God to man relationship spoke of in the entire book of Psalms, and say that worship isn’t extravagant.
However extravagant worship is, it also is a simple act.
It was one week to the day before the crucifixion was to take place. Jesus and his followers went to a home in Bethany. It was a domicile in which the Lord took great comfort. The smells greeted the weary Savior warmly as Martha, ever busy, prepared the dinner. Situated on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, Jesus probably couldn’t clearly see Jerusalem, only 2 miles to the West because of the summit of the mountain. But He knew what awaited Him there. He knew that He was probably in the last calm and safe moment before the ‘storm’ of what we know now as Holy Week. There, to His followers, he was explaining how He had come to die. Common opinion is that they all simply didn’t get it, except for maybe one.
Mary, always the worshipful one, may have seen in His eyes the weariness that the others did not detect. The worshipper approached the Teacher with perfume, saved for anointing the head, and anointed His feet then wiped them with her hair. In the Books, Matthew and Mark, this ‘undignified’ act of worship immediately preceded Judas’s betrayal of the Lord. Witnessing extravagant worship polarizes those who have ulterior motives.
In the 66 times ‘worship’ is mentioned in the New Testament. 60 of those times it is a transliteration of the Greek word, proskyneo. This means literally, “a dog licking his master’s hand.” Mary shows us such a vivid expression of this translation in this wonderful and uncomfortable act. Extravagant worship in the presence of God can be anything but comfortable.
We were created to fellowship with God. So it is not a stretch to say that Mary’s worship comforted God. Isn’t it incredible to think that our worship could delight our God this much? Jesus doubtlessly needed comfort. He was on earth, God in flesh to do a mission that was gruesome and terminal. One wonders if upon the cross, as the harsh wind blew over his punctured feet, for comfort Jesus was reminded of sweet Mary, comforting Him just days earlier, with the smell of sweet perfume filling the room. Extravagant worship involves many senses.
In this Easter season, I urge you, worshipper, to not be consumed so much by your own needs in your time of personal and corporate worship – but think instead of the desires that our God has as He heartily anticipates our worship, our fragrant, costly, sometimes uncomfortable, extravagant worship.
Have an extravagant Easter season.