Reverence

Preaching and Worship Resources about Reverence

Reverence is not a word that can be easily applied to our society or even our churches. "Irreverent" is a term often used to make novels and movies seem more attractive. Churches tend to tout their informality of dress and demeanor in worship and emphasize their intimacy with God rather than their reverence toward God. On the other hand, churchy reverence can easily turn onto obsequiousness — a kind of fawning, showy form of reverence replete with all the candles and accoutrements that actually keeps God at a distance. It's what Paul calls "holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:5).

Points to Ponder

Reverent Fear and Submission In the Bible reverence is associated with a proper recognition of God's holiness, authority, and almighty power. One does not casually saunter into God's presence. God does not so much demand reverence and awe as evoke them simply by who he is. In the epistle of 1 Peter, we are told that because we call on a "Father [who] judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile" (1 Pet. 1:17). Even Jesus is described as offering "prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission" (Heb. 5:7).

In Hebrews, the author describes the worship of the old-covenant people of God appearing before Sinai as "terrifying." Still, the new-covenant worship of those "firstborn" in Jesus Christ and set free from sin still demands reverence. God is still "a consuming fire" to whom we ought to offer "acceptable worship with reverence and awe" (Heb. 12:28 - 29).

Annie Dillard imaginatively evokes the slouching irreverence of many Christians and their worship of God: "On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return"


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.