This post is about worship. First, though, a presupposition: We become what we behold.
Don't believe me? Billions of dollars are spent every year by advertisers because they believe that people become what they behold. Why are you dressed in those clothes? Why do you live in that house? Why that car? Why aren't we all wearing Amish monotones or living in double-wide trailers or driving 65 Chevy Novas?
Because Levi's and J. Jill and Under Armour and Nike and Carhartt spend a lot of money to produce ads to show us how we could look if we bought their clothes and shoes and underwear.
Because realtors convinced us that it's better and safer and more prestigious to live in a home built by Jeff Benton than to live in one built by Bubba's Doublewides and Bait Shop.
Because Chevy and Dodge and Ford and BMW and Mercedes and Toyota and Honda have shown us over and over that really successful and happy people drive their cars.
Maybe you don't believe the presupposition – we become what we behold – but everyone else out there does.
So, what does that have to do with worship?
Worship is where we learn to look in a different direction. We come to worship to unlearn the language of the world, to unlove its values, to be culturally deprogrammed. Worship is spiritual, perceptual detox. It's where the values of the culture – power, prestige, appearances – are replaced with Kingdom values – humility, service, substance.
The music that we sing in Sunday church casts a different vision for our lives. Communion takes us back to an event that happened before any of our lifetimes, reminding us that history didn't begin with our birthdates. That sacrifices were made long before we ever lived.
Giving is, perhaps, the most flagrant act of cultural reprogramming we do on Sundays. The one thing everyone in our society wants, we give away. Freely. Without getting anything in return. We just open our hands – or these days, click a button – and let it go.
If giving is a glaring repudiation of culture's values, prayer is the most subversive thing we do. By bending our knees, we are acknowledging that there is more to this world than what we can see with our eyes or touch with our hands or test with our experiments. We are recognizing that God is the ultimate source of life, the ultimate authority for our decisions, the ultimate court for our appeals.
All those things and more happen when Christians gather for worship. And the result of all that subversive, rebellious, a-cultural activity is a different perspective. A different way of seeing. We get new eyes. We become what we behold.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul put it this way: And we, who with unveiled faces all contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
If we look long enough – if we do it so long that we memorize the songs, that communion becomes a feast, giving a habit and prayer becomes our primary language – then we become what we have beheld in worship.
We become – not God-like – but godly.
Which is why, of all the things COVID has taken from us, the loss of gathering to worship is so devastating. Until the vaccine has been widely administered or the virus runs its course, do all you can to find a way to behold the glory of God in worship. And when it is finally safe to gather again, get back into the habit as soon as you can.
You cannot become what you do not behold.