I helped lead singing at church yesterday, but my best worship occurred outside the walls of church. I set out on a run late Sunday afternoon and as soon as I reached West Cliff I noticed something different.
There were people lining the cliff, waiting for the sun to set. Because we live on a bay, the sun doesn't always disappear over the ocean, but when it does...WOW!
Most of these observers would not acknowledge the God who created the sun or keeps it's light burning. But they were all worshiping.
Surfers and stoners. Young and old. Americans and Europeans. Wealthy and homeless. Sane and crazy. Gay and straight. Republican and Democrat. All invited into the kingdom of God and all enjoying God's boundless creativity and love of beauty. I couldn't help but recite Philippians 2 in my head as I paused to take it in with the rest of the crowd.
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Fleeting, Imperfect Pictures
For one fleeting moment, we all worshiped together. United by our experience of something bigger than us; more beautiful than we could imagine.
And it was fleeting. After taking the above picture, I continued on my run, pausing to spit into some grass (it's what runners do!). A woman about 10 yards away stared at me and yelled, "Yeah, that's what I think of you too, b___!" What? Later I saw her at Safeway, muttering under her breath about people who were following her and laughing. She is obviously tormented by paranoia, but it was quite unsettling.
And this is life on our planet. Flashes of God in the midst of suffering and evil and pain and mess.
So, what's the point?
All this got me thinking about why we gather as a church. How there must be a component of worshiping together. Of standing in communal awe as we watch the sun set or a flower bloom or a new birth. There is something holy and transforming that occurs when we experience this together and corporately acknowledge the God who makes it happen.
I've grown so weary of church hopping and church competition and anti-church movements and church strategy and church bashing. We're just so broken.
Which makes me want to come together with my fellow mess makers and watch God do something only He can do.
Maybe we can stop making our gatherings about us and simply come to be reminded of God's greatness and goodness. Perhaps, together we can sit in awe as we hear again of the great love of Jesus--his perfect life and torturous death that led to new life for us.
May our eyes be opened afresh as we fall in love with this Jesus and we say with his disciples, "who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?????"
My encouragement to you this week is to engage in the weekly gathering of your community with a fresh perspective. Looking to share with those around you the wonder and worship of God.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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