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Presence – “The Shift from Worship as an Event to Worship as a Lifestyle”
She came into the worship service looking tired. I asked her if she was okay and she told me that she was working more hours, trying to get everything done around the house on Saturday, coming to the early worship service and Sunday School, and then heading to see her mother who had recently been placed in an Assisted Living Center. She did not know how much longer her mother would be around because she was failing fast. I asked her why she was in church today. She said that she thought God expected her to be here and knew that her church needed her. I told her that God knows her heart and the demands on her life. God understands that her mother needed her. But, God also deeply cares for her well-being. I reminded her that if she continued at this pace much longer, she would be of little use for her mother, family or church.
Six months later, she came to the early worship service. Her mother had recently died. She thanked me for giving her permission to be a mother, wife and daughter. She quickly became involved again in the life and ministry of the church and the church was blessed through the ministry of a renewed disciple who was cherishing the memories from the last months of her mother’s life.
When we think our Presence is fulfilled by our participation in the worship of God on Sunday morning, we are focusing on Worship as an Event. It is what we do, and once it is done, we can check it off of our list and can get on with the rest of our life. But when we think about Worship as a Lifestyle, our worship of God does not begin on Sunday morning and end at noon. Our worship continues everywhere we go and involves everything we do.
I was at a gathering of clergy and one clergy expressed to our Bishop his dissatisfaction that he was required to come to a gathering that did not meet his needs. Bishop Blake responded, “Sometimes God calls us to gatherings not because we will receive something that we need but because someone there will have his/her needs met through our Presence.”
When we think of Worship as an Event, it is easy to judge each aspect of it on the basis of our likes and how well it meets our needs. When we think of Worship as a Lifestyle, then we realize that all of our life is an act of worship. Our concern is less about whether or not our needs are being addressed and more about whether or not we are helping to meet the needs of others. We become aware of the person who is sitting by herself/himself. We notice the person who seems to be struggling with something in his/her life. We lend a hand to a parent who has more active children than hands.
When we make the shift from Worship as an Event to Worship as a Lifestyle, we realize that our Presence in worship is not a duty that we must perform to gain God’s pleasure, but it is an opportunity to praise the God who cares about every area of our life throughout the entire week. When we make the shift from Worship as an Event to Worship as a Lifestyle, we realize that God can use us to be a blessing to others every day. What is amazing to me is that when our worship extends beyond Sunday morning and the focus of our worship is praising God by serving others, we discover greater joy and more fulfillment in our life.
I invite you to read Luke 17:11-19 before Sunday. Look at the two different responses from the Ten Lepers who encountered Jesus. All ten lepers were healed but, it was the thankful leper who received Jesus’ praise. For all of us who have been forgiven; for all of us who have experienced the joy that comes when God removes from us a burden, for all of us who have felt the needed strength during a time of trial and for all of us who have been able to return home and worship God, do we live every day like the thankful leper?