Our reading today comes from Matthew chapter 6:
Appearances. That is what this text says to me. Don’t be concerned with your appearance to others, only to God. Intellectually I believe in this, but practically I don’t think I do a very good job. And sometimes, I don’t think about God at all. Others’ opinions are the first thing on my mind.
How many times have I found myself saying to one of my children, “You are not wearing that to church!” While my consideration was not on what they would actually experience at church, but instead, what others would think of ME by the looks of their clothing. I don’t think God cares what we wear, as long as we come with honest and seeking hearts.
One of the biggest problems that I observe in churches today befuddles me. We are the polar opposites of the church people Jesus was talking to in this text. He was very concerned that all their religious activity was for show, to impress others. There wasn’t a lot of heartfelt worship going on. That is why He said, “do it in private.”
I don’t believe this is our problem though. Our problem is that we resist open and heartfelt worship because we are worried about what the other CHURCH FOLKS will think of us. It’s true. We show up at church, sing (but not too loudly,) give (but not too much,) pray (but only in silence with the preacher.) We are Christian, but we don’t want to be labeled, “Overboard” or “Too religious.”
Far be it for us to sing at the tops of our lungs the praises of our Savior. Never let it be said that we allowed the Holy Spirit to move us into a state of complete adoration, or deep contemplative prayer during a service. And above all else, even if our hearts are breaking and our souls are crushed – don’t even think about answering the call of the Spirit and accepting the invitation to join our Divine Healer at the altar in front of others. What would the church folks think? Maybe they will think I have a problem. Maybe they will speculate about my marriage or my business. Maybe they will lose respect for me…
And we are all guilty of it. Many times I can remember wanting to sing or dance in worship because I knew I was in the presence of my Savior. But I did not, because I didn’t want to embarrass my family standing next to me. How many times have I wanted to go to the altar and pour my heart out before God? But I didn’t because no one else was there and it would hold up the service. I bet we all have times like those that we can remember.
I challenge us all today to stop worrying about what other people think about our faith practices. God’s opinion is the only one that counts. And let us consider for a minute dear friends; How do we think God feels when He says “Come” and we don’t respond for fear of others’ opinions? How do we think God feels when He says “Do” or “Go” and we resist because we don’t want to appear too religious?
Today is Thursday. I am still hearing comments about our contemporary service last Sunday. In it, we saw a rare occurrence. As the Spirit began moving among our congregation, we saw people coming to God. We saw the altars alive with prayers of all types – people truly seeking the presence of Almighty God. It was incredible and a beautiful sight to see. And the Spirit was electric. It was awesome.
I commend those people that felt a call to “come” and they went. For those people that had the courage to step forward and show us all what true worship looks like – I thank you. And a strange thing happened afterward. No one called them “overboard” or “fanatical.” Instead, Facebook and dinner conversations were filled with comments like “Spirit-filled,” “powerful,” and “exciting.”
To respond to the presence of God (in any way) is an awe-inspiring thing for the people around us. It is a powerful witness. It is my prayer that the church universal embraces the presence of God and shows the world how wonderful it is to be fully surrendered to an audience of ONE.
How I have failed You, time and time again. Please forgive me for all the times I have had the chance to worship You and witness to the world – and I have resisted. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, my King. Teach me to worship You in spirit and in truth. Lead me to a relationship with You that loves out loud and invites others in.
In the name of Jesus I pray,
The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of the Liberty Crossings UMC staff or leadership.