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The Right Way to Worship

August 25, 2014

So tell me, is it a sin to giggle in church?  I remember as a kid in a conservative evangelical church I was told that it was.  I needed to be “reverent” when I came to church.  Giggling was just one thing I was not allowed to do.  The list was nearly endless.

My wife had the same sort of upbringing.  I remember when, just after we first met, I was waiting for her at the church door on a rainy Sunday morning; I mean it was really pouring.  As she dashed from her car to get out of the rain I noted that her step-mother was walking slowing behind her and scowling.  Peggy waited with me out of the rain and looked back as the older woman, head erect, walked slowly, with a somber expression.  She finally came to the door, arriving totally drenched, and promptly scolded Peggy for not walking to church “reverently.”  I guess being chilled to the bone is more reverential than moving quickly into church.

Back in those days there were all sorts of things that were required for proper worship.  While we could greet each other we were to do so quietly and briefly.  Of course, we were to be wearing our “Sunday Best.”  For men, we needed to have a tie on because, as I was actually told, that was “more spiritual.” 

Things have changed a little but there is one thing I have observed; there is still a demand to enter into the proper mood to worship.  Services are set up in such a way to make worship flow.  Worship leaders and pastors work hard to create an “atmosphere of worship.”  What that atmosphere actually is may vary from religious tradition to religious tradition but we all want to be properly worshiping. 

So there we were in church yesterday and, like those kids from long ago, my wife and I were giggling before the service.  As is his custom our pastor had put a sermon outline in the church handout.  He used, as he always does, a “fill in the blanks” system.  Yesterday’s sermon was entitled “The Beauty of Sexuality” and sought to present a Christian view of sex. 

But some of the fill-ins on his outline caught our eyes.  Some of the bullet points were:

  • Mankind is so _________ to sexual _________
  • There is a ___________ with sex
  • The Biblical Standard is a ____________

While we waited for the service to start we began to think of various ways we could fill in those blanks and, before too long, we were giggling.  I know, not very reverent was it?

At the end of the service, which was quite worshipful, and the message, which was quite good, we had been blessed – even though by any standard we had not approached the matter as reverently as we have been told we should.

Is it possible, in our quest for reverence and proper worship, we have turned worship into a work?  Does worship depend on me and whether I am doing it right?  Every week, in every church, people come to the service distracted.  It may be a worry, a sorrow, an anger issue, a hectic morning, a bad work or family situation, or a host of other things but many times we all arrive distracted.  And, yes, maybe sometimes we are distracted by some idle chatter or teasing.

I can’t help but think that the grace of God accepts imperfect worship.  I’m pretty sure he knows our hearts well enough to tell the difference between our bumbling human efforts to worship a God beyond our comprehension and false worship that is just a show.

We just got word that a dear friend of ours who seemed healthy only two months ago died of a fast-moving tumor.  Which worship pleases God?  The inept attempt of a heartbroken people who have trouble concentrating?  Or those who stuff the grief away and put on our best worship faces?  Is it possible, even if we leave a service still confused and hurting, that God delighted in our worship?

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