July 6, 2016
(Written over the course of the past week)
So, it’s Friday morning and I pull out a pan and the measuring cup to make myself a big bowl of oatmeal. I detested oatmeal as a kid, but it’s one of many things I have learned to really appreciate. Not unlike broccoli, peas, asparagus and the Psalms. Anyway, I pull the oats out of the cupboard and as I’m removing the lid I fumble the container and they spill all over the stove. Shoot! But the good news is this… I spill them close to the edge so they can slowly sift down into the space between the stove and the cupboard. Grrrrrrr! Now I’m pulling the cupboard and stove away from the wall and vacuuming the pile of oats. Thankfully, when I’m done and have everything returned I reach for my morning coffee… which I might add I proceed to knock over and watch coffee spread all over the counter. Honestly!? I’m afraid to leave the kitchen. But I decide to do something safe and go for a ride on my motorcycle. Ah… the wind blowing briskly through my… well… okay, my beard and what’s left of my curly mane. Some days… well…
I got home the other day after running several errands only to discover that my zipper was down the whole time I was out. My question to myself was this, am I old enough now where that is considered “acceptable” behavior? Know what I mean? Should I be embarrassed? Or do people look at me and say… “Oh boy, look at that old man… doesn’t even know the barn door is open.” Simply one more example of the deep thoughts that run through my ever expanding mind.
Today is the 4th of July. We are “celebrating” our country’s independence. Or at least in theory we are. Serious question… what does it mean to “celebrate?” I understand fire crackers, picnics, parades and all that. But if the thought never crosses our minds of the “miracle” that occurred at the end of the 18th century (and it was indeed a miracle), then what are we celebrating? The fact that we are on this side of the Revolutionary War makes it easy to take our independence and freedom for granted, but do you know that that war could have gone either way? And frankly, if it had not been for George Washington’s ability to lead the Continental Army to masterfully run away for the first 6 years of the war… well… we would be British. All the men that we remember as founding fathers would have been executed if we had lost that war. This “celebration” thing reminds me of Christmas. If we don’t acknowledge the birth of our savior in a very real and significant way… well… then it’s just a bunch of materialism, family, football and drinking. One of those things isn’t bad and the second is neutral (you pick) but they have virtually nothing to do with Christmas. The same is true of most of our major holidays. By the way do you know that the word “holiday” comes from “holy day?” Hmmmmmmm…. So, how did you knowingly/deliberately “celebrate” the 4th?
There again… the previous paragraph causes me to reflect on worship. What exactly is it? Is it the 60 minutes (more or less) that takes place in many churches on Sunday morning? Is that (whatever “that” is) worship? Is “worship” a few “Jesus songs” with some prayer and a sermon? Is that what it means? I am reminded of Mark 7 where he quotes Isaiah:
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
It’s easy to write this off by acknowledging that Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day who had gotten WAY off track in the faith. Seriously who can say definitively that we have not also gotten off of the track… that our worship is not amiss and in vain? A “hymn sandwich” and a boring preacher are not worship! And frankly ”contemporary worship” and an interesting preacher are not worship either.
Worship is transformative. Period. If we are not becoming more like Jesus because of hanging out with Him on Sunday mornings… then we are not worshipping. I’m not sure what we are doing but it’s NOT WORSHIP. Seriously, how can someone spend time with God, allow their spirit to be touched by His Spirit and not be changed and become more like Him? That is not a rhetorical question. How can that be?
I said to our congregation sometime ago, “I wish we would not refer to Sunday mornings as ‘going to church.’” Why is that? Because we can “go to church” to do many things. If we refer to what we do as “going to worship”… well then… that conjures up entirely different expectations.
So, this Sunday, or the next time you show up on Sunday morn, what are your expectations? Are you prepared to be transformed as your spirit touches the Spirit of God? Or are you hoping you like the music and that the sermon isn’t too long?
What is “worship” anyway?