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Opinion: Worship for the audience of one

  • Thursday, September 23, 2021 12:15pm
  • Neighbors

By Dan Wiese

Several years ago, my wife and I were flying into Wichita, Kansas. It was quite an eventful flight. First, we were sitting near the back of the plane and a man sitting behind us, passed out in the aisle. The flight attendants hurried to his side and called for a doctor on the plane. The man regained consciousness and was checked out. He was kind of “out of it” still, so the flight attendant asked if he could sit next to us so we could watch him until we landed. We agreed and he took a seat next to us. When we landed, we decided to walk off the plane with him to make sure he was OK. By the time we were disembarking, he seemed to be mostly back to normal.

We were walking down this “L-shaped” ramp that led down from the concourse to a hallway leading to baggage claim. (This is before 9/11 and the enhanced security measures.) When we came around the corner, there was a massive crowd of people lining the lower ramp, all the way to the front entrance to the airport. The crowd had left a narrow passageway to allow us to continue down the ramp. What shocked us was when we came around the corner and the crowd saw us, they began cheering and clapping as if we had just scored the winning point of a championship game. We were getting slaps on the back, high-fives loud cheers. We were receiving a hero’s welcome. We wondered, “What in the world is going on?”

We finally got to the bottom of the ramp and found my brother-in-law who explained that the local basketball team had just won a major championship and were scheduled to arrive back in Wichita that evening. Their plane was late, so the crowd decided to cheer everyone who came down the ramp in anticipation of the team’s arrival.

As I thought about that anticipation and enthusiasm that motivated them to come to the airport, I wondered if our hearts have the same anticipation, expectation, and enthusiasm when it comes to worshipping God, our creator, our sustainer, and our savior. Worship is at the very center of all Christian living and is more than what we do on a Sunday morning.

Every person is called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To do that, it is important we learn more about who God is and all that he has done for us, so we can appreciate him, love him, and praise him more appropriately. The more we know him, the more we will love him. And the more we love him, the more we will want to know him and praise him.

If that be true, then I wonder if the anticipation, expectation, and enthusiasm within our worship experience might reflect more about how we experience worship.

If our worship experience is lacking or is unfulfilling, we might wrongly conclude that it is because there is something wrong with the “performers,” as in how good the worship team or the piano player was, or how good the sermon was. Maybe we have lost our worship focus, as if worship is all about how talented someone is, or how well an attender was entertained. This is not to say that one who leads a congregation in worship or a preacher giving a sermon ought not to give of their best or that their talent is not appreciated.

I always remember a song we sang in church when I was growing up. The words were, “Give of your best to the Master.” As a preacher of scripture, I might not have the talent of Billy Graham or other great preachers, but I ought to give my best in every sermon I preach. But I also remember, it is not about me and not about receiving accolades for my sermon. It is about giving worship, an offering to God, and giving glory to God.

How do we approach worship? How does God see our worship? I think God looks more to the heart of our worship more than he does how talented or how good our performance was. Are we focused on the one? Are we seeking God? Seeking to know God? Longing to experience His presence? Oh, that we would focus more on God and giving our focus and attention to him more than what we liked or disliked about the worship service! It really is all about worshipping the “audience of One!”

The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

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