The Essential Task
In his Book of Facts, scientist and author, Isaac Asimov states that, “Before the mechanical clock was invented in the fourteenth century, the most complex machine was the pipe organ.” One of the greatest organs in medieval times was the organ installed at the old (Pre-Norman) Winchester Cathedral (completed in AD 642) by Bishop Aelfeg in AD 950. This organ had 400 pipes, and it required 70 men to operate its 26 bellows.
Why did so much effort go into worship? Worship was once considered essential to life. The music, liturgy, Scripture, and even the great cathedrals themselves pointed the human soul to God in heaven, away from life’s temporal pursuits, pleasures, and pain. Worship’s purpose was to inspire faith, encourage the downcast, comfort the grieving, and help people face their challenges with a renewed confidence in God.
Consider the efforts that went into building the great Gothic cathedrals. These great gothic cathedrals were so large that it would sometimes take several centuries to complete them. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., took 83 years to complete. The gothic cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris took 182 years to complete. This was during a period when the average Parisian had a life expectancy of only 45 years. The great Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany – which still has the distinction of being the tallest cathedral in the world (its twin towers stand 515 feet tall!) – took over 600 years to complete (from 1248 to 1880).
Their sky-piercing spires direct the eyes heavenward. Their glorious stained-glass windows, depicting biblical men and women of faith and the saints of old, remind the believer that “we are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses” to God’s faithfulness and love. Yes, all of this went into the “worship experience” in a time when life was quite precarious and troubled.
Is life any more certain and trouble-free today? Isn’t our need for worship greater than ever? Doesn’t it make sense to gather together with other people of the same faith and – by music, song, and Scripture – turn our eyes from the world’s many troubles to our Heavenly Father who is able to solve them all? Perhaps this is why Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What greater calamity can fall upon a nation than the loss of worship?” This is why Scripture tells us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
PRAYER: Dear Father in Heaven, please create in me a heart that yearns for Your presence, thirsts for Your Spirit, and hungers for Your word. Please draw my sights heavenward and help me to count Your many blessings to me. Please teach me the value of worship and of gathering with Your people to exalt Your name. Amen.