Preparing for Worship

Matthew 5:23-24

Are you coming to church ready for worship? It isn’t just a question of whether our clothes are clean or that we remembered to wipe the remains of breakfast from our faces, it’s a question of whether or not we are prepared to come into God’s presence.

Recently I was talking with someone who had been liturgist for a Sunday who noted that there are some in the congregation who do not always realize, that we’re live. We can see you. In this case the liturgist was noticing a couple people who seemed to be swapping comments throughout the service. His comment was, “If it’s like that for us, I wonder what it’s like for God.”

Imagine, God has sent out the invitation: “Come for an opportunity to be healed, renewed, and transformed.” There’s just one catch, it doesn’t work if you aren’t there to worship God. Worship requires that you leave behind your grudges, hostilities, and other forgiveness. Worship won’t work for you if you come expecting to dictate what God will say to you and in what manner. Worship is the place where the Holy Spirit (unpredictable on the best of days) will determine what is to happen. In other words, come as you are, but come prepared.

But often we don’t prepare. Sunday morning just rolls around and there we are, usually running late as it is. If we are going to take the time to offer forgiveness to the people we have wronged and make peace with all of the people with whom we have issues and grudges, well it’s going to be a long morning. At that rate for a lot of us, the early service is going to have to wait until a week from Thursday at least.

So if we can’t come to worship with forgiveness and wholeness, we had best come with humility. Humility calls us to recognize that we are fortunate to be able to come before God without having made everything right. It’s not about what we know, or having been perfect, it’s about who we know. We know a guy at the door: Jesus lets us slip in even if we’re not completely set. But as those who have gained entrance by grace, we probably should focus on our hearts, on taking in what God will show us, and on being fully present with one another.

We all have a difficulty in realizing that we are coming to worship God, to come into the presence of the Almighty, in order to be made whole, renewed, and healed. It’s funny, we almost get the attitude that God is the one who should be grateful that we’ve made the effort.

What is amazing about all of this is that God is truly gracious. I’ve not seen one person zapped for playing with their cell phone in worship; and in some cases I know for a fact that people have made sure that cell phone user was brought to the Almighty’s attention. I have not seen anyone punished for behaving in ways that certainly would justify at least a wee bit of smiting. Quite the opposite. God seems to throw arms wide open and welcome everyone.

But what is lost by lack of preparation is the ability to receive. Without preparation we can anticipate leaving, pretty much the way we came in; except for an hour older.

Peace,

Pastor Jack

 

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