Matthew gives us Mary Magdelene and a woman he names “the other Mary” making an early Sunday morning visit to the tomb in which on late Friday afternoon they had watched Joseph of Arimathea place Jesus’ crucified body (see 28:1-10). As they approach the tomb, the ground suddenly shakes under their feet – an earthquake. This is followed by a blaze of lightening, which turns out to be an angel. The combination of earthquake and lightening puts the Roman soldiers who are guarding this tomb out of commission. Scarred out of their wits, they sprawl out on the ground in a dead faint.But the two Marys stay on their feet and hear the angel address them personally with two phrases: “Do not be afraid” and “He is risen” (verses 5-6). The angel then gives them a message to be delivered to the disciples. They leave the site of the tomb, as ordered by the angel. Deep in wonder and full of joy, they are off on the run to share the news with the disciples. But then they are stopped in their tracks by a greeting: “Good morning!” (verse 9, MSG). They hear a welcome in the greeting and fall to their knees before the resurrected Jesus. their first response to the risen Christ was to kneel in awed reverence. There was also an element of intimacy in that reverence, for they dared to touch and hold on to his feet: They “worshiped him” (verse 9).The two elements together became worship. Falling to our knees before Jesus – an act of reverence – is not in itself resurrection worship. Touching and holding the feet of Jesus – an act of intimacy – is not in itself resurrection worship. The acts of reverence and intimacy need each other. The reverence needs the infusion of intimacy lest it become a cool detached aesthetic. The intimacy needs to be suffused in reverence lest it become gushy emotion.
I know that we are in the middle of Lent, but every Sunday is resurrection day. Every Sunday, we suspend our fasting, and allow ourselves to celebrate the power of the resurrection in our worship. I came across this passage from Eugene Peterson’s Living the Resurrection today and thought I would share it as a meditation for all of us who plan worship on a regular basis:
Reverence and intimacy. How well do we do as worship leaders to intentionally seek to balance these two? I must confess that I too often get up in the “What choir special have we been working on” and the “what is the chorus of month” type questions that I forget the heart of what we are called to do: bring the congregation before the LORD in reverence of God’s glory, and to invite them to crawl up into the lap of our Abba, that we might be engulfed in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.
Maybe you didn’t need this reminder, but I know I do. We cannot get so caught up in the what and how of worship that we forget the who and why.