Embrace the Mess
By Craig McAlevey
April 19, 2018
I have a distinct church memory as a very young boy, I was probably around 4 or 5 years old. Instead of sitting and facing forward, I would turn around during the service to face the people. Kneeling where I should have been sitting, and I’m certain fidgeting when my mother preferred stillness; my young uninhibited self would proceed to call out to my mother the names of the people I knew all over the church, and not in a whisper. I recall that memory from time to time when worshipping at our church. I then smile at my innocence and at the patience my mother had, the true patience of a saint that woman had.
As we leave the season of Lent and most recently the somber reflections of Good Friday and the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday, I find the subject of worship on my heart and mind.
I recently read this quote in a blog that stirred my heart (linked below)
“Our heart in corporate worship should not be to drown out the other worshipers from our consciousness with tightly shut eyes and a narrow focus on God, but to praise him as one of his people, from among his people, gladly part of a gathering. We widen our eyes of worship to include our neighbor, not as the object of our worship, but as joy-multiplying, praise-accenting partners in worship.”
The 5 year old me had those “wide eyes”. Those eyes would take in the scene and identify my fellow worshippers, even if I didn’t realize that’s why we were there and that’s what they were trying to do! I’m quite certain some closed their eyes trying to ignore my face wishing they could also close their ears.
Of course, it’s not wrong to close your eyes during worship, I often do that myself. However, if I’m honest, it’s not always from a focus on God or a sincere heart, rather it’s an attempt to dissuade distractions. We gather on Sundays to worship. Whether it’s during fellowship, the call to worship, songs we sing, the sermon, or the response time, in and through those acts, we worship. But do we consider that we are engaged in corporate worship? Or are we trying to have our own quiet time at church? Is Sunday morning about “me and Jesus” or is it about pursuing God as a family of Christ followers?
Our fellow believers around us aren’t distractions; they are created in the image of our God. They, too, have come to fellowship and worship. Many have burdens and enter into our church distracted and hurting. Sometimes that’s you and me. It’s not only before and after that we should look to respond to the needs of each other, it’s also during. I admit that I don’t often look for those opportunities….do you?
This isn’t a plea to open your eyes and gander around church this Sunday, although that may not be a bad idea. Mostly it’s a desire to understand the meaning of corporate worship? Why do we gather? We live in a time where everything and everyone is polished to perfection. The music we listen to is over-produced, movies are filled with special effects that distract from the story, and with the advent of Netflix, Amazon Prime and countless other offerings TV shows are ubiquitous. As a people we are experts at performing and pretending.
We can polish ourselves all we want on Sundays, but the reality of the church is that it is a beautiful mess! Look around this Sunday – embrace it, engage it, love it, serve it. Then let’s lift our eyes in worship to the One who redeems and is restoring all things…including you and me.