Thoughts from Inside a Holy Beggar’s Tent

This past Sunday,

in passing,

my pastor

mentioned how
when the older Israelites,
the ones who had been alive to see Solomon’s temple before it was destroyed,
when they saw the rebuilt temple,
they wept
because what stood before them

couldn’t compare to the former glory they had known.

I thought of that during a worship service

that doesn’t always meet my “felt” needs.

I thought how,
after fifty-two years of worship services,
there have been times that I’ve been moved beyond words
and times I was bored into unconsciousness by worship.
I’ve worshiped alone on a rooftop in Japan surrounded by fireworks on every side
and worshiped surrounded by thousands
in a conference hall full of missionaries and college students
on New Year’s Eve.
I’ve worshiped in sanctuaries with stained glass and vaulted ceilings
and on rough hewn planks in
a wooded chapel without walls.
I’ve felt God’s heart beat and sensed His presence in a service
spoken entirely in a language I didn’t understand
in the midst of total strangers
and I’ve felt stiff, unmoved, and alone
in a perfectly orchestrated, carefully planned, meticulously executed
service designed to be relevant, personal, and holy.
In my younger days, I thought worship had something to do with
location,
companions,
liturgies,
structure,
absence of structure,
music,
lyrics,
sharing,
personal testimonies,
casual clothing,
preachers in jeans,
guitars and drums,
nature,
authenticity,
raised hands,
or altar calls.
Now, I think,
that’s like thinking
sex
is about
candles,
music,
perfume,
and lingerie.
Worship is what occurs
when I give attention to God
and respond to who He is.
That should be able to occur
no matter the setting,
the music,
the company,
or any of the other popular accessories to worship.
Sometimes, remembering times when I’ve been

deeply moved by other services,

I weep inside

like the old men who knew the former glory of the temple.
In America,
worship has become such a
patchwork thing
as we stitch together
traditions and
preferences
cultural bents,
the newest teaching,
feedback from Barna polls, seekers, and
exiting teens
music and mission and ministry of the word
and graphics and relevance and holiness and the personal touch
like homeless beggars
fashioning a tent from remnants and rags
it can be distressing
and then I thought,
how Christ laid aside His deity
and joined us in worship here on earth.
What former glory had He known?
More than any of us have ever dreamt!
What music had He heard?
and light
and power
and worship of the highest order

but He knelt here beside us dressed in our own dust

and He did it without
weeping or moaning,
in fact,
He was known to laugh in our midst.
I can’t imagine Him complaining
that anything interfered with His worship
He gave attention to His Father
and responded to Him in Spirit and in truth.
Then, I thought about how I used to love to sing
the worship song, Knowing You, Jesus
 
and how, in one line, I told Jesus I wanted to “know Him in His suffering”
and I saw my restlessness with earthly worship
in a new light
how Jesus must have longed for the release of heavenly worship
worship unburdened by
the sinful pettiness we humans carry to it
like the well-traveled coins we toss into the collection plate.
how He must have longed for home
how He must have wept at the comparison
how He must have ached for us to open ourselves up to His Father as He did.
And, I knew that Jesus could endure our faulted stabs at worship
because He looked ahead to the time to come
when we will kneel before His throne in perfect unity
in beautiful, perfect, holy, unfettered worship
because He will have brought us home.
And with that thought,
I could forgive myself
and those around me
for the silly things we add and subtract and use to divide His church over worship
because He died to purchase that forgiveness
for us
And I saw Him,
His sacrificial love,
and my heart was drawn to Him
and I worshiped Him in spirit and in truth
despite the heat, the distractions, and the imperfections around me and within.
And I renewed my desire
to worship Him
in every moment
and praise Him for this beggar’s tent
because it is sewn together
with the scarlet thread of His
blood poured out for us
so we could get this close
to perfection
on this side of glory.
John 4:23  “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

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9 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Wow. This is beautiful and profound. I’d never thought about Jesus missing the worship of heaven while he was here on earth. Thank you, Lori!

  2. BOWLED OVER by the power of these words

    Bent on offering worship as pure as possible

  3. Anonymous says:

    Go ahead. Make me feel like a piker as I complain about words flashed on the wall with no music notes so I can sing the words as the writer meant them to be sung. Hear me complain because someone said I was distracting them when I raise my hands during hymns. Listen to me as I say “Amen” very quietly when the Pastor makes a point that touches me–quietly because I don’t want to be accused of disturbing those around me. As my Savior waits for my worship in freedom and truth, I spend my time trying to please those who sit near me in the worship service. Thank you for reminding me why I’m sitting in the service and who I should be trying to please. Once again, you are my teacher. I love you. MOMMA

  4. M says:

    “and praise Him for this beggar’s tent
    because it is sewn together
    with the scarlet thread of His
    blood poured out for us”
    your words pricked my heart today–
    thanks for your honesty and willingness to ‘be real’
    today, I’m reminded to worship Him-He deserves all our praise!

  5. Beautiful. Powerful. I appreciate being reminded to forgive myself and those around me for the silly things we add and subtract. Terrific pieces as usual!