I sit in church most Sundays.
I often lead the worship.
I have my good and bad days (with leading worship, as well as everything else).
Right now we are between ministers, so we get to hear quite a few different people speak, some for the first time, which is great, others are old hands, like myself. Recently we had one fellow who, when he spoke, said nothing controversial, and was sounding reasonably biblical, but he was steeped in 50’s-60’s culture, robed etc. He spoke a bit about the past, and I felt a bit nauseated thinking about what I imagine was a very ritualistic, religious (in the negative sense of the word) style of worship that I can only imagine used to occur in the 50’s and 60’s, in your average suburban Methodist church. The message seemed more a remnant of yesterday, than a message for today. His style may well have pleased some of our older congregation.
I guess I had had a bit of trouble with the sound system, and so, had been a bit distracted in thought and not as open as usual.
Right now though, I am reflecting more on the deeper question; why do I get critical?
I was not present in the 50s and 60s. Cleary, there were times of life and surging within the church then, so who am I to pass judgement over the past?
Have I reached an age of awareness, fearing that likewise, the next generation or two may look back at my time as a time of lifelessness and stifling in the current uniting church?
It is hard at times, not to grow weary of the same process, Sunday after Sunday, with the same people, seemingly unchanged by the truth of who God is and the amazing things he has done for us in Christ, as well as the struggle to get people to enjoy a more modern song, and the struggle to get people to hear God speak, and to stop worrying about the sermon being too long. It can be disheartening.
Yet what is it that I actually long for?
A church full of eager hearts, bursting with joy at the truth of being cleansed from all our sins, willing to overlook the perceived wrongs dealt to us by our fellow worshippers, and ready to love each other, even though we are often unlove-able.
A church full of people reverent of God’s word, earnestly seeking to understand and obey his will.
A church full of praying people, seeking to speak out our burdens, and those of others, in trust, to our God.
A church full of encouragers, who see the hand of God at work amongst us, and in each one, drawing each one on to fulfil the good purposes God has for each one.
The presence of God himself, filling all of us with awe and wonder.
By faith we know God answers our prayers and that God is truly present when we meet together.
He can (and does) speak even when the speaker is off track, when the worship leader is out of tune, when the reader keeps faltering, when the prayer is silent, when the worshippers are few, and even when things get a bit old fashioned.
But am I ready to listen????
Satan is also present, ready to give an alternative interpretation of the word, and our circumstances. Ready to stir up disharmony. Ready to dishonour God, by implying that he is not good, and does not care.
But why do I get critical?
I get impatient with God. I want him to do things quicker and better than what I am seeing around me. I also grow tired of my own struggle with sin. I want to be better than what I am, and want to find some way of achieving this myself, in order to gain favour both with God and man.
Anyone who understands the dynamics of humanity, and our fallen-ness will recognize the futility of what I have just stated. I am physically/psychologically/spiritually unable, by my fallen nature, to do anything good.
Offensive, isn’t it. I can feel some of you rushing to my defence, saying, “no Joe, that’s not true, you do so much good.”
Thank you for caring, but the truth is the truth. Neither you, nor I, have the ability, no matter how much we truly desire, to do good, of ourselves.
This is very offensive, I know.
I say this by faith. With joy. Because as soon as I remember this, I also remember that there is one person who has done everything good, and has given us his “goodness bank account” with a blank chequebook, to use freely.
No-one is good but God alone.
Who can save me from this body of death?
Praise be to our Lord, Jesus Christ.