Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)
It might be cold outside, but the true sign of spring has finally emerged. baseball has returned. As we have for the past 22 years straight, my son and I made our way down to Cincinnati to witness the true beginning of the baseball season (No matter what MLB and ESPN says, it starts with Cincinnati).
It was a cold, but good day. The Reds won, which is always good, and in the past few years certainly not a guarantee by any means. But it’s interesting how much my focus has changed over the years. The score of the game isn’t as important as it once was. Oh it’s important, just not as important as it once was. I still love baseball. But what I really enjoy is the time my son and I spend together. with differing schedules as he became an adult, we see each other but don’t get to spend as much time as we would like together. So that time is important for us.
Our drive to and from the game was filled with laughter and serious talk. We talked about his plans for the future, the church and what we watched on television last night. In fact, as I reflect on it, the topics of our conversation aren’t nearly as important as the fact we did talk. It’s not about an agenda as much as it is enjoying one another’s presence.
But the fact the game itself is no longer our real focus doesn’t mean it’s not important. We root and cheer and yell as much as we ever did. Actually the joy of the game, especially a win, is enhanced, not diminished, by its role in our lives today. We come to enjoy one another’s presence. When something good happens, it simply makes the joy of one another’s presence better. It’s the difference between eating by one’s self and going out to dinner with great friends. We enjoy being together. If we have a great meal, it makes our time together that much better.
I wonder, if in some ways, our spiritual lives wouldn’t be better off if we approached the church, especially worship in the same way. I’ve often looked at the scripture at the top of the page as a description of the saints, looking down on us, making sure we don’t mess up anything they did. In reality it’s a description of what the church is supposed to be. The saints in heaven and earth gathered around the throne of God, simply enjoying His presence. If we look at the book of Revelation,and how John describes Heaven, and eternity, it’s all about the presence of the Holy Trinity. That’s the focus. It’s the overwhelming presence of God and simply enjoying being in His presence.
What might happen if we remembered that this is how it’s supposed to be for us here as well? That church, especially worship, is simply about being in the presence of Jesus, and just enjoying being with Him? What if we attended church not because we liked the music program, or how welcome they made us, how good the coffee was, but on this criteria” Did I feel I was in the presence of Jesus today? And did I enjoy just being in the presence of the saints around me today. Now, there is nothing wrong with good coffee, great music, great greeters. I’m merely arguing if this is our only criteria we’ve allowed worship to become too “customer satisfaction” driven. In other words, we become the center of worship, having our “felt needs” met rather than worshiping God.
It’s not an excuse to not have high quality worship. Actually the opposite. When I come to be in Jesus presence I find the good coffee makes it better. That great band? They enhance the joy. That smiling face and handshake? Just makes the day better.
This Sunday (or Saturday, Wednesday whenever) let’s all make this our criteria. In this short time I’m going to simply enjoy the presence of God. You’ll find joy that’s unimaginable.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><