Upon entering the bus, third grader Lilly immediately asks me the definition of "advent." "I should know what it means," she explains, "but I fell asleep during the sermon yesterday when the pastor was teaching. I probably should have stayed awake, but I was real tired."
Before I have a chance to respond, Lilly is off busily chirping at her friends. I begin to think of the many "Lilly's" who've fallen asleep during my profound, powerful, patiently prepared, poignant, penetrating preaching.
Now that I am no longer patiently preparing those powerful, poignant, penetrating sermons on a regular basis I have a chance to ponder what really goes on during a typical "worship" service...or at least what the Lord of Life would have go on.
"When you stand in the place of worship..."
While standing in the worship service we attended yesterday I thought of this statement. Worship services tend to be pretty passive experiences (no wonder the Lillies of the world fall asleep) and, according to personality profile expert Dr. Mels Carbonelle, tend to attract passive people.
Without getting too caught up in the minutae of word parsing, "Standing" is a much better position toward movement than sitting. For what better place can we find in heaven or on earth then worshiping God to restore relationships through love & forgiveness?
However, if while seeking God's presence, love and mercy we shut out our neighbor from our part in their blessing, how can we truly know our own selves forgiven? Is it not a kindness that our Father says he cannot forgive us when we will not forgive others? How would we interpret it if, though impossible, we should hear Him say "I forgive you" in our unforgiving-ness to a brother? Would we not think "I may go on hating, He does not mind it! He knows I've been provoked and am justified in my anger."
Take comfort, friends, that even though He does take into account what wrong and provocation there is, he will not allow us to simmer in resentment, to make excuse for our hatred, but works to deliver us from the hell of our hate and make us the loving children he means us to be.
Experiencing the love that would banish that demon from our heart and the paradise of God's presence is definitely worth staying awake for, don't you agree?
(adapted from MacDonald's Unspoken Sermon It Shall Not Be Forgiven)