It’s a word that’s used to describe different things…maybe a person, maybe something that was said…but most recently I heard it used to describe a moment during a church worship service. Apparently it was a very prayerful, intimate moment but it was deemed by a few to have possibly been awkward for some either at the service or watching online. It was decided for the rest of the weekend services that moment should probably be avoided so that no one would feel awkward.
And although I understand the heart behind that notion, I also can’t help but be somewhat saddened at the idea of adjusting a worship service to suit the comfort level of those attending. It just seems like the tone of worship should be set according to the One receiving it , not by the ones who get a little weirded out when worship becomes a little too intimate or a little too extravagant.
One part of scripture that has continued to come to mind in the last couple of weeks since I heard about the “uncomfortable worship moment” is in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus is having dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee when this woman shows up that the Bible describes as having led a sinful life. Specifically it says that she had heard Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house and so she came with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind Jesus, she began to weep and her tears fell on His feet, getting them all wet. So she crouched down and dried His feet with her hair…her HAIR…and poured the perfume on them. And of course, right on cue, Simon the Pharisee piped up and began to complain that Jesus shouldn’t be letting such a sinful woman touch him like that.
So think about this for a second. Can you imagine the awkwardness of this moment? There they all are lounging at the table eating dinner and suddenly this woman comes in and immediately goes into this very intimate, worshipful moment with Jesus. I imagine for those watching it was probably quite uncomfortable to see someone so openly and humbly offering up gratitude and love like that. So unashamed in expressing her feelings in that moment. I’m betting in the couple of seconds it probably took Simon to gather himself enough to open his mouth, it was well…awkward. But in the midst of the awkward moment, who was the one that started freaking out? Well, I can tell you it wasn’t Jesus.
And when Jesus speaks, he doesn’t ask the woman to take it down a notch because she’s making everyone feel uncomfortable. No, instead Jesus chastises the Pharisee – the guy who’s supposed to have this religion thing all figured out – because this woman in her reckless moment was doing something for Jesus that the Pharisee should have done, but didn’t. Jesus then praises the woman for what she has done. Oh, yeah. Awkward again.
But why was it awkward? Could it be that in this moment this sinful woman recognized something in Jesus that the others didn’t. That when face to face with the Christ, she saw in Him what the others had overlooked or ignored…the love of God that brings forgiveness of sin. She knew what she’d done, all the skeletons in her closet, and she knew what she had been set free from. And her response to the knowledge of the grace of God was pure gratitude, humility, and surrender. Pure worship.
Oh and please don’t miss this part. This woman came with purpose. She didn’t just show up and grab a perfume jar off Simon’s shelf. She had brought one with her. She heard that Jesus was there and she went with intentionality to express her love and gratitude to Him. You could even say that her worship of Him even began not when she arrived in His presence, but rather the moment she grabbed her jar and set out for Simon’s house. Everyone else is just there hanging out socializing, while unbeknowst to them, there is a woman on a mission heading their way.
So my thoughts here are two-fold. First, I have to ask myself, when I go to church…or to worship service as we’ve come to call it…am I going with the intention of worshipping? Is church something we do just because it’s the “right” thing? Because, well, it’s Sunday and that’s just what we do on Sunday. Go to church. Check. Go out to eat. Check. Take a nap. Check.
Or do I go to church with the mindset that I am coming to gather together with the Body of Christ and offer up worship to the God of the Universe? Do I come seeking Him, sacrifice in hand, with gratitude and love for what He has done? When we come to church are we coming more to give or to get?
And my second train of thought here is I guess more a word of caution that anything else. I know in my own church, we often have the order of service planning down to the minute, as I’m sure is the case in many other churches. But in all the programming and planning that goes into a worship service, are we micromanaging every moment to the point that we give no room for the Spirit of God to move? And would we recognize it if it did? Does the fear of making people uncomfortable hold us back from being led by the Spirit? Do we trust the Holy Spirit in our worship leaders enough to give them the freedom to flow with the Spirit even if it means getting a bit off on the “worship plan?” And do we prepare for worship with a greater focus on God’s glory or on people’s preference?
Just some things to think about.
So what are your thoughts? Is worship more for the seeker or the Sought? Or both? What are maybe some hindrances to a move of the Spirit in a church service? How can we as a church and as individuals better prepare for worship?