by Jill Riley
A few days ago I was shopping in a beauty supply store. The store was pleasantly un-crowded, allowing me the rare opportunity to slow my pace, browse, breathe the fragrances, and dare-I-say “stroll” through the store. At the end of my leisurely adventure I was waiting to pay from my $2.99 purchase when a man walked by and CROP DUSTED me! (For our more “cultured” reader that means he farted and walked away.) Oh. My. Word. In one single, un-contained, rude and smelly action, he managed to blot out the entire loveliness of my shopping and all of the beauty in the store.
Similarly. Sometimes I think we go to a “Church” expecting to see beauty and experience holiness. And then, just like in shopping experience, somebody throws a whole blanket of stank on our business and we are at the most, angry and at the least, disheartened in the worship of the day. What is it that causes such strong emotions and reactions?
I believe it is simply a matter of expectation. What offends one in a place or moment of worship, another may find normative. What one finds reverent and holy someone else may find boring. Each one of us has a certain expectation of a worship experience which is informed by our history. As I read Cathy, Michelle, and Caenisha’s writings I notice the individuality and preference of worship style embedded in the spiritual DNA of each lady; understanding that those preferences will be carried into every corporate worship experience they are privileged to participate in. I also notice that the conversation on worship here has majored on the corporate experience and minored on individual acts of worship.
As I reflected on this a couple of thoughts come to mind.
Let me gently set this first thought down. The conflict and disturbance in corporate worship does not reside in the church walls. IT WALKS IN WITH US. Notice this. Worship that is our Holy God with an individual does not contain interpersonal conflict or debate over preference. One on one worship is sweet and without bitterness. The tonality of our worship, in silence, in prayer, on our knees, at the empty tomb of the risen Christ is one of joy, great love, and most of all peace.
What if we carried the same attitude of adoration that hangs thick in the air when we are by ourselves at the feet of Jesus, into every place of corporate worship? When expectation changes direction from us relying on others to help us find a “place” of worship into a deep knowing that the sweet sacred presence of God walked in the door with us, the true definition of worship can be known. Only when who we worship becomes embedded in our soul, inextricably linked with our gratitude of the same can worship be real.
I do not believe God cares even a little bit about hymns, choruses, and acoustic vs. power bands. I believe God cares about each of us so much that He invites us into a place of solitary worship where we see and experience His grace. Then we are invited to carry this grace into community where, as a believers church, we celebrate and recognize the sacred in one another rather than judging their worship preference as “stinky”.