Category Archives: 2012-04

Pastor’s Pen for April, 2012

And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’ (Luke 4:6-8) Over the years, it’s happened to me many times, and I never know quite how to respond.  I will meet someone at a store or public place, and we get talking.  Eventually, they find out I’m a clergyman, and they say: “Oh, I’ll have to come and hear you preach sometime!”  While I realize that their statement is meant as a compliment (i.e. that our conversation was enjoyable enough for them to want to continue the relationship), it still leaves me with an uneasy feeling.  Though I would be delighted to see them at a worship service, it makes me a little uncomfortable to think that their primary motive for coming would be just to hear me preach.  Like most preachers, I know how nice it is to have people interested in hearing what I have to say.  A lot of work goes into preparing sermons that we hope people will find meaningful. But sermons are NOT what worship is all about!  Worship is about God’s activity, and our desire to celebrate it and participate in it.  Hopefully, a sermon will contribute something to that process, but without lessening the importance of:  the prayers we say and sing; the scriptures we read and explore; the music that arouses and expresses feelings too deep for words; the practice of offering God our hearts, hands, and resources; and the reconciliation and communion we feel with one another when we gather in the spirit of Jesus.  Worshiping isn’t just hearing a sermon or going through the motions of a familiar ritual.  Worship is bringing ourselves into the presence of the Holy Mystery that lies at the center of Life and connects us with other people and the rest of God’s Creation.  Whether the sermon is good or bad; whether the music is uplifting or discordant; whether the hymns are familiar or unsingable; whether the prayers are inspiring or boring; whether you are surrounded by friends or strangers, loved ones or enemies, worship is always more than the sum of its parts.  Worship is a conscious, intentional act of being in God’s presence together. Though having a rich private devotional life is important to cultivate, something happens when people gather to worship that simply can’t happen when people worship alone.  For all the benefits of private worship, miracles of transformation like reconciliation, community, and mutual ministry can only happen when we’re together.  They don’t just happen to us automatically by walking into a church building on Sunday morning – an attitude of reverence, openness, and anticipation are all necessary as well.  But when those ingredients are all present, God is more than likely to be revealed in wonderful ways that no one can predict. So while it may be personally gratifying to have you come to hear me preach, I’d much rather you came in order to worship God.  There’s something much more important going on in worship than just me flapping my gums.  I’d hate to have you come and fail to notice it . . . especially on Easter! --Duane