My wife and I were visiting with some old friends a while ago. We had a nice time talking, laughing, joking, and reminiscing. On the way home, Nancy said, “Karen told me that her and Bill have not spoken to each other for six weeks; not since they had a big fight after their son’s graduation.” I couldn’t believe it. I said, “How can that be? We just had a great time with them. Everything seemed fine.” Nancy replied, “Karen said they are able to put on a show like that whenever they are around other people; but at home, there is not one word to each other.”
I was shocked and saddened, and then, very worried for them. How long can a marriage last when there is no communication? Would we ever get together with them as couples again?
Such refusal to communicate will kill any relationship. Words spoken in anger can be very bad, and much regretted later, but that is not the worst one can do. Sarcasm doesn’t help much in the communication process, but that also is not the worst. Making fun of another person is not very nice, but one can do worse even than that. The worst way one can treat another person, or we might say, the most powerful way to show contempt for them, is to ignore them, to treat them as if they are not even there, refusing to hear what they say or to respond. This is, in effect, treating them as if they were dead, and one can’t do much worse than that. In its milder forms, this has been called the ‘silent treatment,’ and we’ve all probably done that a time or two, hopefully for only a little while. It is sometimes even a good idea to remain silent for a while, especially if everyone needs to cool down a bit. But when that goes on for six weeks, it is a sign of real trouble. The Bible doesn’t say ‘don’t ever get mad,’ but it does say, ‘don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’ A relationship will die if there is no communication, whether that is due to anger, revenge, or even just plain lack of interest.
This is also true of our relationship with God. God has chosen to create us and communicate with us; and, he has given us the opportunity to communicate with him. He has invited us to do so anytime. We should not neglect so great a privilege. We should not ignore God. We should not by our silence, or by refusing to listen or respond, show contempt for God.
But how does one talk to God? I have never seen God, and you probably have not either. We have all prayed, but most people do not hear God talk back in an audible voice. I never have. God does not very often speak to anyone that way. He has spoken like that, says the Bible. But even in the Bible God did not speak directly to very many people. So what do we do?
Worship is, at its most basic level, communication with God. During the worship hour God speaks to us in a variety of ways, and we respond to God in a variety of ways. This communication is not exactly the same as the conversations over a cup of coffee with others after the service, but worship is most definitely communication. We might wish for something more personal, and in heaven we will have again have the open communication we were created for. But because of our sin, God is hidden from our sight, and to worship in some form is the Biblical way to still keep in touch. Again, because of sin, worship will always be inadequate and will always disappoint us. But in worship we still do hear God’s Word and speak our word to God. We communicate, and we need to do that to keep the relationship alive.
God has spoken directly to a few people over the years. He has even appeared to a few in various forms. And, God was here on this earth in person in Jesus Christ for 33 years. God has, in these ways, chosen to speak to this world in visible and audible ways. We may not have seen or heard him ourselves; but we have, in the Bible, a full account of what God had to say to us. The Bible is the primary way that God communicates with us now. It is, as we say, God’s Word to us. Some folks read the Bible every day, and some folks don’t read it at all. But the worship service proclaims God’s Word, and we respond to that word with our hymns and our prayers. Worship is one of the primary opportunities we have to communicate with God.
In the Bible, God speaks to us. In prayer, we speak to God.
Hebrews 1:1-2a — In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.
Jeremiah 22:29 — O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord!
Hosea 4:1 — Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.”
Zechariah 7:12 — They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
Psalm 68:26 — Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.
Luke 4:8 — Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP:
Almighty God, you pour out your grace upon all who desire it. Deliver us, we pray, as we come into your presence, from cold hearts and wandering thoughts, that with steady minds and burning zeal we may worship you in spirit and in truth; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Lutheran Book of Worship (#205)