Posted by: deerharas | September 14, 2008

“We’re gonna make it to the church on time …”

Let me tell you about my future family tradition.  Years from now when/if I have a husband and children, we are going to have a Sunday morning car ride theme song.  I found said song a few years back tucked away at the very end of a collaboration album between Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama.  “Church on Time” is fun, peppy, and the perfect antidote to often stress/strife filled Sunday morning family car rides.

On this particular Sunday morning, however, no amount of Ben Harper was getting me to the church on time.  I have never been as late to church as I was today.  55 minutes!  A personal record.  I once was about 45 minutes late, but that was because I had no ice scraper and had to wait for a one inch thick sheet of ice to thaw off my windshield.

The plan today was to meet up with some of my Oklahoma friends at Willow Creek.  My friend Jamie is in town visiting me and her friend Devon who interns there, so Willow was the natural choice.  I got up just a little bit late and left my apartment about 15-20 minutes later than I had intended.  Then it was raining.  Then, ironically enough, I hit ridiculous traffic courtesy of another mega-church on my way to the mega of all mega-churches.  The directions I got off MapQuest might have been the shortest route, but they were by no means the most efficient.  Stoplights galore and flooded intersections contributed to the lateness, all of which really should have only put me about 25-30 minutes behind schedule.  However, stupid MapQuest instructed me to turn left at one point when I should have turned right, and I ended up in a completely different suburb.  I eventually turned around and happened upon Willow just as I was about to stop for directions.  I got maybe the last ten minutes or so of the sermon, met up with my friends and had a fun hang out afternoon.

While it seems that nature and a host of other things were conspiring against me today, that’s usually not the case.  Usually I’m just late on my own accord.  The last church I went to for several years had a countdown screen displayed in the sanctuary prior to the beginning of service.  I seriously had been going to this church for over a year before I heard someone mention the countdown and had no idea what they were talking about.

The church I’ve been visiting since moving here actually has a count-up!  There’s a little screen outside the sanctuary that counts up the time that has passed since the service began with a message that says something about being courteous as you enter.  This I have seen.

Now yes, I do tend to run late to all sorts of things.  But it seems like when it comes to church, I am late without fail, sometimes ridiculously so.  Why is it that I am usually on time for class and work, but punctuality is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to church?  I would say that it has to do with the range of consequences.  If you’re late to work enough times, you might get fired.  If you’re late to class enough times, it could affect your grade.  If you’re late to church, what?  You have to face the shame of the “count-up”?  That’s not really enough motivation for me to be there on time.

I know, however, that when it comes to church, it’s not about what’s going to happen as a result, it’s about what’s NOT going to happen.  Worship isn’t going to happen.  Yes, I might get there for the last song or at least to hear the sermon, but in that case, what have I really offered to God?  In my New Testament Theology class this past week (soon forthcoming blog on the start of school :)) Dr. Perrin talked about the point of the Exodus being worship.  What does Moses tell Pharaoh that God has commanded? “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”  (Exodus 5:1)  Again and again, Moses repeats the refrain of the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”  Dr. Perrin made the argument that worship is our highest calling, and yet how many forsake the worship gathering of believers each week?  I do believe that worship isn’t limited to a building or even a gathering of people.  However, why would I ever not prioritize the absolute privilege of such a gathering, when, unlike the Jews in Egypt, I am gloriously free to do so?

It’s not about my “getting something out of it.”  It’s not about me at all.  It’s an offering.  It was the purpose of the Exodus and by extension the purpose of all mankind.  My purpose.

So for next week, I have two goals.  I want to worship.  I want to ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.  I want to bring an offering and come before him.  I want to worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.  (1 Chronicles 16:29)  Yeah, and I don’t want to see the count-up.

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