Friday, 3 March 2006

St Eugene: Worship and Feelings

I read another of Eugene Peterson's delights recently, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (1980, InterVarsity). From the chapter on Psalm 122, a gem on worship and feelings:
...very often we don't feel like it, and so we say, "It would be dishonest for me to go to a place of worship and praise God when I don't feel like it. I would be a hypocrite." The psalm says, I don't care whether you feel like it or not: as was decreed, "Give thanks to the name of the Lord."

I have put great emphasis on the fact that Christians worship because they want to, not because they are forced to. But I have never said that we worship because we feel like it. Feelings are great liars. If Christians only worshipped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on. Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith....We think that if we don't feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different, namely, that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act which develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God which is expressed in an act of worship.
And as it is with worship, so it would also be with relationships.