May 24, 2009

Worship is an ascension. It always has been.

Man’s first sanctuary, the Garden of Eden, was on a high place; Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer him to the Lord; when Israel gathered to that same mountain on feast days, they climbed toward the temple singing Psalms of Ascent.

But these high places were only shadows of the reality we have in Christ.

Jesus ascended so that we could sit with Him in heavenly places. When we gather each Lord’s Day, we don’t come to a tangible Sinai with its darkness and gloom and deafening trumpet. We come instead to the heavenly Zion , where we join with myriads of angels in joyful assembly and with the souls of righteous men made perfect to stand before God, the Judge of all. In worship, heaven and earth merge, as the Spirit catches us up to be with Jesus.

The ascended Jesus is a Giver of gifts. Quoting Psalm 68, Paul says that Jesus ascended on high to lead “captivity captive” and to give “good gifts to men.” So we gather expectantly, because the Father has promised to give His Son to us through His Spirit. If He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, will He not with Jesus also give us all things?

The Father promises to cleanse us from every stain through the blood of Jesus, making us new men and women; He promises to breathe out the living Word, through the Scriptures and through preaching, to give us wisdom; He promises to feed us the edible Word through the Spiritual food of the Lord’s table, so that we might have life. As we gather for worship, the Father opens His treasure chest, and distributes His gifts.

God’s gifts to us make it possible for us to give to Him and to others. We don’t have any inherent ability to give God pleasing gifts. God gives to us, and with His giving He gives us the capacity to give back. Week after week, He gives and gives again, and calls us to do the same when we return from this height into the valley below.

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