Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 6:1-8.
I grew up attending a church that offered strictly traditional worship services until I was in middle school…that was when – what some called – the “hootin’-nanny” service debuted! Guitars, drums, and clapping, oh my!
I was so excited for this new service as I had been to summer camp for the first time months before and they, too, had guitars, drums, and clapping as a highlight in their worship experience. It was there at summer camp that, for the first time, I “felt” something in worship. Surely it had to be encouraged by those bass drum beats.
My mother gave me permission to attend the new service, though she was not too happy it was scheduled while Sunday School was offered. I went. I was ready. I wanted to “feel” something again.
And after a few weeks, I went back to Sunday School…because the feeling did not come. I continued to worship with my parents in the traditional service. And I sat in my quiet time with God – though I doubt I called it that then – wondering why I had lost “the feeling.”
I remember it was Easter – and Easter was (is) a big deal at my home church. Huge choir, bell choir, brass, and pipe organ – all 72 registers of pipe organ glory! For as long as I can remember the recessional on Easter has been Widor’s Toccata No. 5 – a truly incredible piece. Mr. Corl began to play. About midway through the piece the sound shifts into some quieter pipes; the sound is not as forward, as prominent, and then the piece begins to build towards the finale! As Mr. Corl began his crescendos, I began to have “that feeling” again. What? How could this be possible? I had it first with guitars and drums and clapping…pipe organ is about the farthest thing from guitars, drums and clapping. And yet I was swept up in the feeling – of being in the true presence of Almighty God.
I was 11…almost 12. I remember going home and pondering why the feeling had come in two different settings, two different worship styles, same me in both places, same God in both places…
It was not till many many years later that I realized it was not the same me in both places. I had matured in my faith – it might have been small, but the maturity was there.
In that maturity I changed.
And in my changing I began to learn that I do not worship – I am not called to worship – because I hope or aim to experience some kind of feeling out of being there. I worship because I have been and continue to be invited into the presence of Almighty God – this is pure grace. And it is an incredible privilege to be able to live and serve and have the resources in a country where I am free to worship as I do – this is a great gift.
As I continue maturing in my life of faith I find that experiencing “that feeling” is directly connected to my awareness of being in God’s presence while in worship. In the quiet moments when I am wholly in the presence of God – not thinking about what is next or what just happened or what I will eat (for some reason I think about eating a lot these days…) – and I just am with my God – I am overcome with emotions of assurance, safety, and love.
Do I experience this feeling each time I worship? No. Does that discourage me from worshipping? No. I am committed to coming into God’s presence through worship and – with God’s help – perfecting my being present in God’s presence.
I encourage you to find your way of being present with God just as you are in worship. Give thanks for the grace that invites you to come. Be grateful to be in a country and with the resources that allow you to come. And give yourself the permission, grant yourself the freedom from to-do lists, distractions, despairs, and maybe even thoughts about what you will next eat to worship – truly worship – in the presence of Almighty God.
Prayer: “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus of the Nazarene, and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be! How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!”* Amen.
*“I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” The United Methodist Hymnal 371.