Tom and I are continuing to attend worship on Sunday evening at Asbury United Methodist Church in Uniontown. The last couple of weeks have been a little disappointing to me, so I have been thinking about why we worship and getting back to the heart of worship.
This last Sunday at Asbury, Dr. Frank Ronco gave the message. Dr. Frank looks like he is about 90 years old, all bent over. When he was first introduced, I figured he was a retired pastor. But it turns out he is a dentist in Uniontown and still has an active practice. Maybe he is bent over from years of looking in people’s mouths. As I listened to Dr. Frank, doing my best to pay attention, I kept thinking of Tim Conway’s old man skits. Dr. Frank had a couple of pauses so long I was afraid he had fallen asleep. Between the long pauses and the repetition, I didn’t think the sermon would ever be over.
The sermon was about judging from Matthew 7:2: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” It was an ironic message considering how harshly I was judging it. I tried not to judge. I tried to enjoy the message. And I did manage to find a few nuggets of gold.
But it made me think, as I’ve thought many times before, about the reasons we go to worship. We go because someone makes us or because we feel guilty if we don’t. We go to see our friends and talk to them before, during, and after the service. Sometimes we go expecting to see God and we are often disappointed. The sermon is boring or rambling. The music is all songs we don’t know. The prayers put us to sleep.
The problem with all of this is we go with ourselves at the center. We go to get something for ourselves, to have a need or desire of our own met. But the first song we sang Sunday night was “The Heart of Worship.” Not one of my favorites, but the Holy Spirit convicted my judging attitude by reminding me that worship is about God, not about me. My poor job listening to the sermon was because I was centered on my thoughts and desires, not the thoughts and desires of God. So I became guilty of doing the very thing Dr. Frank was preaching against.
I always said that I became a minister because I wasn’t any good at being a congregant. I’ve always had a very judging attitude about worship. But God wants me to come worshiping Him, not thinking about what is wrong with a sermon or service. The heart of worship – its all about You. Open my heart.
I am thankful that so many people came to worship when I was a pastor with their hearts focused on God, not focused on me. I hope that when I am 90, I will still have words to share with others about God. And I pray that they will be focused on the heart of worship so that the Holy Spirit will bless them with his presence.