Zoo Worship


Have you been to a zoo lately? Have you ever engaged in worship there?

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Lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my. What a display of God’s creative power and imagination. But that’s not what I mean in this particular situation.

At the zoo, there are all kinds of things kept at a distance from us. For good reason. If let out on their own these things would at the very least make quite a mess, and at the very worst seriously hurt us and others. It’s the same with our sin.

While God chooses to forget our sins (Jer. 31:34), we are actually encouraged in some sense to remember them–and to use this as a springboard to God-honoring, thanks-filled worship. It is true that Paul urges us to leave behind the past (Phil. 3:13) and move with strength into a healthier, hopeful future. But at the same time, he also personally reminds his readers of “what they once were” (Eph. 2:13; 5:8; Col. 1:21). Additionally, we have the Psalms (“I am a worm and not a man…”) and prophetic books calling us to, and exemplifying for us, a posture that takes into account our history of rebellion against God as a way to consider His true goodness to us. Biblically speaking, we should neither revel nor dwell in our sin, but also never completely forget it. A tricky proposition to be sure, but also a healthy spiritual tension.

This is where the zoo comes in.

It’s a way to look at things that are best kept at bay and be thankful that’s where they stay.

A good memory is one of the keys to a bigger worship. It’s also a reminder that every now and then a tiger finds its way into the city streets–most of the time because of an unintended lapse in diligence. This powerfully impacts our connection to God and others. It keeps us from forgetting that our actions, without the mediating work of God’s love towards us in Jesus, would be a very bad situation. And it allows us to walk away with a renewed sense of the vastness of His mercy.

You know the old saying, I have some good news and some bad news. In this case, the bad news is pretty much a necessary setup to receive the good news fully. Paul shows us this pattern in his letter to the young disciple and leader, Timothy:

“…though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy …The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:13-16)

Paul’s present (in bringing this to light) and present-tense (“I am the worst…”) reflection on his sin is an indication that he sees this as a needed recognition of his spiritual condition. And then, in light of this bad news to good news progression, he launches into an expression of great worship:

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1Tim. 1:17)

So, let’s take a moment while we are singing, praying, and giving attention to the Word of God to recall what we were, and then fall at the feet of the one who has made us something new. The next time you gather with the people of God for worship, maybe a sideways glimpse at the cobra habitat will do your heart good.

4 thoughts on “Zoo Worship”

  1. Yes! Helpful analogy, Wayne. So thankful for those moments when God, in His wisdom, opens my eyes to see my heart as it truly is apart from Him — evil. Not basically good with a little selfishness mixed in. Evil. It is then I am filled with even more joy, wonder and thankfulness that He loves and changes me. What kind of God does that?! My love expressed in adoration and obedience is only logical response. Glancing at the cobras today.

  2. “At the zoo, there are all kinds of things kept at a distance from us. For good reason. If let out on their own these things would at the very least make quite a mess, and at the very worst seriously hurt us and others. It’s the same with our sin.”

    The distance – near or far from us – can never solve my sin problem. There is only one – Christ Jesus – who stands with me, before me, behind me, under me, and over me! I chose to cling to Jesus; all glances away from Him lead to destruction! Thank you, Father God, for providing a SAVIOR for all aspects of life.

  3. Wow – thanks for that analogy Wayne. How interesting to think of my sin as a wild animal. And the only thing keeping that animal in check is the saving power of Jesus Christ. And yet, He still allows me to release the beast if I so choose. What a powerful reminder that we need to stay rooted in Jesus Christ to make sure that our monsters stay in their cages.

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