Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection September 25, 2016
Worship & Surrender
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
One of the great questions in our lives is “What is worthy of our worship?” We know deep within that one major task in life is to become people able to adore. To adore means we bow down in the presence of something/someone worthy of our worship. The problem is we often settle for almost anything to adore. We must be careful about adoration -- not everything is worthy of worship. Discernment is needed!
Most of us feel the need to worship -- but we don’t know what we should worship. Should we worship the Cubs? Or maybe our struggling Bears? The stock market? Our own abilities and talents? Success?
Good as these things might be -- they are not worthy of worship. They are not worthy because they do not call forth the full mystery of surrender. Surrender happens when we abandon our sense of self in the presence of something or someone significantly larger than our self.
Surrender happens when I realize that I am not God. I might want to be God -- but I am not. Surrender happens when we allow the defenses surrounding us to be stormed. Surrender happens when we allow our self-containing/self-protective walls to be breached. Surrender happens when we allow our fears to be engulfed by the torrent of life and love.
The way of surrender doesn’t easily appeal to us because surrender sounds like defeat. This may especially be the case for those of us who are male. “Never surrender” is a motto many of us are taught as boys.
Surrender implies a vulnerability often disparaged as a weakness. But surrender is not always a weakness -- not always a defeat. Surrender to something/someone infinitely larger than ourselves is a victory -- a victory of vulnerability.
Vulnerability doesn’t seem like something we should choose as our life’s goal. Yet that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. To achieve a vulnerability leading to total surrender is what I assume to be the mystery of the mystics.
To be able to give ourselves up -- to give ourselves over -- to God is a foretaste of heaven. This is what happened to our brother Paul on the road to Damascus. That experience changed his life and transformed him into a great evangelist for the Risen Christ.
Many of us may find such surrender possible in the presence of the truly beautiful. This is not the only route to surrender -- there are many others. Surrender to the full embrace of love is another such route as I have discovered in my life with my beloved Beth.
Worship is another way for us to encounter surrender. When we allow ourselves to be “captivated” by the sacredness of worship, we find ourselves experiencing the sense of vulnerability residing at the heart of faith.
Most of us want to be in control. Control can, indeed, be helpful in many areas of our lives. Lack of control is generally not helpful for the full unfolding of the human person. And yet there are times when we must give up our great desire -- our addiction -- to control. We must allow something/someone other than ourselves to “take over.”
As Pastor Alan Jones mentions in his delightful book, The Soul’s Journey : “The spiritual life is not a matter of obeying or breaking rules...it’s about breaking into and being broken open by a way of transformation.”
Surrender is about being broken open. Worship and surrender go together. As Jones suggests: “true worship is not repressing desire but knowing -- however dimly -- its true object.” Vulnerability and faith are forever linked. Worship reminds us of this truth.
Without consistent worship, we cannot hope to be people who are able to surrender into the fullness of faith, the fullness of vulnerability. There should be very few things on our “to do” list that rank above the need to worship weekly with our sisters and brothers at our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church!