I went to church last Sunday.
I do most Sundays, actually, so that in itself isn't particularly notable.
This Sunday it took me a while to get into any actual prayer during the worship session. Usually I'm there, communing with God and telling Him what's been going on and what I think of Him and stuff. I did a bit of observation, while I was there not praying. Some of my observations, I feel, are encroaching on some pretty sacred and holy moments and sentiments. The other kids never like it when you keep your eyes open during the prayer, watching them. I've done my best to treat everything and everyone described here with the respect they deserve.
An older man, maybe 55ish...walked in to the church with his wife and sat down. Church isn't something he's into much. He gave it up when he was young. Boring, irrelevant, and pretty out of date, really. A rational thinking person definitely sees through it. Let's call him Jack...Jack followed his wife cautiously to a seat near the back of the church. They sat down and waited for the service to begin.
Let's call him Graham, a young 20-something business dude, walked into the church with his mates and sat down. Graham comes to church most weeks. The people are great, the worship is good, and the preacher always has something rather insightful or interesting to say about God and about life. About living well.
The music begins. "We stand and lift up our hands..." the lead singer cries out with passion, "for the joy of the Lord is our strength." The crowd follows in. Slowly at first, but by the end of the first song a definite atmosphere of gratefulness, awe, abandonment to God has settled on the place.
Jack watches as everyone stands for the song and sat quietly, holding his hand to his chin in a thoughtful pose. "Holy is the Lord?" Possibly, if there is a Lord. No-one Jack knows had ever made his acquaintance. "The Earth is filled with His glory". Debatable, really; Jack wondered if starving Zimbabweans thought so too. It seemed strange, all these young people getting together to sing about God. And those lyrics..."we bow down and worship Him now". Jack was quite happy to *not* bow down to anyone. He'd had good years and bad years but he'd made life on his own, with a bit of luck and the occasional hand from some good mates. The lyrics seemed rather repetitive, too, and as the second and third songs roll past Jack got less and less into this church thing his wife seemed to love so much. These kids are working themselves into a bloody trance!
Graham stood for the song. It had been an interesting week. Work was pretty crazy at the moment. He sighs wistfully, thinking of his team's abysmal rugby performance at the game the day before. "the joy of the Lord is our strength" called the worship leader. This is true. In truth, Graham didn't mind about work. The rugby was a blow but really, in the scheme of things...what does it matter? The after party went alright. And here he was surrounded by friends he loved worshiping a God who loved him; not only that, who died for the world and was planning to remake the world back into it's original beauty one day. Yeah. Life was good. Graham lifted his hands in thanks to God.
The worship continued, and the worship leader called out the first line of the next song. "You and I were made to worship...you and I are forgiven and free." As Graham lifted his hands higher he wondered what exactly he had been made to do. ...He has filled our hearts with wonder..." Graham thought back to some of the fascinating stuff he'd learned about several years ago before graduating...and his curiosity had never died since. Another option was a recent offer for a place on a team going to help out at an Oxfam project on the South Africa border near Zimbabwe. Those would be fine ways to worship God.
The last song, sung just before the preacher got up to talk, was Newton's Amazing Grace "...that saved a wretch like me!" That seemed a little insulting, Jack thought. He was no saint, but knew deep down he did his best by everyone. His wife of 35 years knew that. It just seemed unnecessary to denigrate himself like that. There's enough pulling people down in this world, surely, without the need for a crowd to get together and do it to themselves as well?