Word for Word

by Rev. Kevin Smith

Just the other day I was contemplating preparations for the ecumenical worship we have in Lansing for Fish Days. I thought of worshipping on the Fish Days grounds in a tent with the distractions of the world all around us, and yet those very distractions are creations of our Heavenly Father. Why don’t we spend more time gathered to worship in the open? I know that it is not always practical from a weather standpoint, but why not at other times?
Granted I know more than a few people who claim to worship God outdoors, and that is why they miss meeting with the gathered community, but I have a little trouble accepting a prayer for a hole-in-one, a monster sized fish, or the perfect shot to be worship of God. Those prayers seem to me to be more like my three-year-old grandson asking for a cookie before dinner. The “Thank God” that might follow receiving one of those things could be praise but then the praise becomes conditional on God giving us something first. After receiving such a gift we usually take all the credit when telling about the event to another.
Meeting in a group to sing hymns and give lip service to prayers in the confines of a building does not necessarily make worship either. I know a lot of people who are satisfied with making an appearance at church as long as the seat is not too uncomfortable and the pastor doesn’t get too windy.
The very first sermon I gave was as a candidate for pastoral ministry and lasted for about five minutes. The congregation of that little church wanted to know if I could become their pastor immediately. Flattered as I was with the offer the reason they gave for such an offer was disheartening: “With sermons like that, you would never make us late for dinner!” Since that day I have made it my personal goal to be in true worship to God.
What then makes up true worship for me? For one thing, true worship is focused on God and not on me. God tells us in the Ten Commandments that we are not to worship anyone or anything before God. Whether I’m in a building sitting in a pew or outside sitting on the grass, the focus is on God. The prayers and songs speak to God’s power and actions not mine. If I refer to myself it is acknowledging that without God I can do nothing good and it is by God that I am blessed.
Another thing that is part of true worship is that it takes place when two or more are gathered for worship. Jesus said “where two or more are gathered I am there with them.” In all religions something is used to symbolize the deity worshipped. Usually it is something man made that resembles the power of the deity. Fortunately for us, we are created in God’s image and by joining together we need no graven images to worship.
There are many other things we have added into worship to make it what it is today but in my opinion these two are essential and everything else enriches the experience.
So back to my first question “why don’t we spend more time gathered to worship in the open?” Are we afraid to show others that we are praising God? Are we afraid to invite others to join us in worship? Maybe we just forgot what worship really is.
Consider how you might truly worship God as you enjoy your Sabbath.

Blessings in the name of Christ Jesus,
Rev. Kevin Smith

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