Each week Cliff and I lead a couple hundred people in worship. Each week one of us preaches, and as we are greeting at the door we are told how wonderful our words are. When I was a younger pastor I gushed over these words. So and so thought that I was that great… perhaps I am the next Lloyd Ogilive or Tony Campolo? Perhaps not, but it did cause me to puff my chest out a bit for the next day or so.
I read a book recently that talked about vision. It was about the purpose of the church and worship. We are not there to entertain or play music that the congregation is suppose to be playing. Nor is it suppose to say something profound that everyone will forget by lunch at the Olive Garden. Rather we are the eyeglasses to God. I like many wear glasses. The glasses serve the primary function of being able to see the world in which I live. It brings clarity and focus to the brilliant colors of God’s majesty. While my glasses serve a function, I do not stare simply at my lenses, but they bring clarity to something beyond. So is the purpose of the church and a worship service. It magnifies something beyond.
With those words in hand, I have been really thinking about my role in leading worship. It is not all about me, or the choir, or the special music. It is all about what we point at and to. What we bring clarity to. Realizing that God does not want us to perform but to get out of the way of worship. Us Pastors are merely the glasses that bring clarity to a God that many times is beyond understanding. This is more than the Pastors and a service, but also our programs/ events as well. In all that churches do, we need to magnify what is beyond… to step aside and not let it be all about us. Last night I talked about Nehemiah 8 and how Ezra taught the word of God from morning until noon. We focused on the idea that it was not all about Ezra, but to who Ezra was pointing to. You see Ezra was only the glasses and magnifying the God beyond.
The best part of my day is when I walk in the door. These days it is usually the littlest guy that lights up and yells “Dad!” and runs over to give me a hug or be picked up. Each of my kids have done that, but now that they are older some of the mystic has rubbed off. At times I will get various forms of acknowledgment. But the underlying affection is there in each of them. While at times we may not like each other or our actions, we will still love one another.
So is our relationship with God, while our actions would not be liked, we are still loved… unconditionally. That is hard to fathom, that I am loved without any conditions. Many of us do not have relationships that come without strings. Whether it is parents that love us, as long as we please them. Or friends that love us as long as they are pleased with our actions. I have close friends that long to have a relationship based upon love that has no strings.
Here is the good news, God love toward us has no stings. You are loved unconditionally in spite of what you have done in your past. Love that is greater than we can hope or imagine.
As today’s word of the day is wonder. I often think back to the book by Mike Yaconelli in his book Dangerous Wonder. It was one book, as a young youth worker, that shook me. I often ask myself if I have lost the wonder of faith, and simply lulled into a sense of boredom. Sometimes we are lulled into that sense of boredom. When we read our Bible without sensing, God moving in the pages. Or when we are in worship and the word roll off our tongues without any meaning behind them. I often long for the times of wonder, when I give all of myself to God’s will and not my own.
It was one of those snowfalls you never forget. Millions of white flakes filled the air, quieting the earth and swallowing the sounds. The resulting silence was thick with the texture that you could feel.
My nephew stood in the living room at the opening to our deck, a stranger to the snow, his two years of life about to be altered irrevocably. His eyes were blank, unaware; his body clueless; his mind about to overloaded with the electricity of discovery.
The moment arrived.
In a perfectly timed instant the deck lights went on, the camera started recording, the sliding door swept open, and a two year old was transported from the world he knew to a world he had never seen.
Wonder filled the air.
His eyes stretched with astonishment, as through the only way he could apprehend what he was seeing was for his eyes to become big enough to contain it all. He stood motionless, paralyzed. It was all to much for a two year old, too much for an any year old. He twitched and jerked each time a snowflake landed on his face, feeling it tingle as it was transformed from hostile cold to friendly warmth, caressing his face with tiny droplets of water. Just behind his large eyes you could see sparks fly from the crosscurrents of millions of electric stimuli overwhelming, the circuit breakers of his previously small world. His mind was a confusion of a strange, conflicting realities: white, cold, floating, flying, tingling, electric, landing, touching, sparkling, melting— causing an overload so great, so overwhelming that he fell backward- a slow motion landing in the billowy whiteness, the snow tenderly embracing him. He had given up trying to understand snow and given in to experiencing snow.
It was a moment of wonder.