I opened my eyes this morning with a feeling in my chest—a powerful urge moving down from my mind to my heart. (Or maybe it was the other way around…hard to tell sometimes, isn’t it?). The feeling was sudden, but deep. And that feeling was a want to worship God.
Strangely, I just woke up with that lifting-up feeling inside—that need to smile back at God, from where I stood.
So, I breathed deep. I went to the study and sat with the Quiet for a while. I read words from books I thought tapped into my sense of God, and lifted up thoughts of praise. I even found some powerful music of worship. The good stuff. Not necessarily church-brand, but other songs that really captured the power and beauty of Life.
Of course, being a pastor, I naturally started sensing an urge past all of this. I wanted to shout from the top of the mountain, and help other people feel what I was feeling, too. Because it was good.
So I logged onto our Deer Park facebook page, and started posting some of this stuff. Some of the readings. Some of the music. … All of it to keep lifting It up and out. Just a little later, I noticed there were some people outside, going in and out of the food pantry; and I wanted them to hear it, too—on the off chance that it might lift their soul up just a little higher, and give them a sense of God in their own lives.
I opened the windows wide, and turned the sounds up so they might carry through the air.
And then… it hit me.
Just as suddenly as that sense of worship came, a very real sense of God’s movement in our lives filled me up and ran over. The silent words of God—maybe God’s response to all of that worship, I’d been shouting—rang out loud past all of those sounds I was hoping might reach the outside air, “…Well, thanks! Feels real good to hear. … Sooo…. What are you still doing in here?”
I looked down at the volume remote in my hand, and to the speakers rattling in the corners, and had to laugh at myself for a second.
Of course, God was right. (As usual)
All of this time, inside my house, while I was trying to get these sounds of worship out into the world, and spread that goosebump-feeling of God through other people’s skin—-all of those folks outside had been moving back and forth from the food truck, stocking the pantry to help people in need. And there I was, sitting inside with my volume remote. In this makeshift Sunday I’d set up, I’d been so happy feeling God move through my soul, that I hadn’t noticed all of that movement of God through the life just outside my door.
I didn’t turn off the music inside; but I put down the remote, and I tied my shoes tight.
Walking out the door, I found that all of that volume inside didn’t go much further than my doormat. The wind carried it away, just past the first step from the porch.
Downstairs, I grabbed a box of food and joined the others. Greeted with voices, and smiles, and hellos, we worked together with our hands to do what we could to make life better for people experiencing the bad stuff.
And it was then that I felt all of that reaching out to God I was trying to do from inside my house, was finally and actually happening. From hand to hand, God moved back and forth through all of those willing fingers, spreading the warmth and love of God’s soul as we passed the boxes. There was no music. No readings. But there was love. And that’s what all of those sounds and thoughts are for, anyway, right? In the end, that feeling of worship inside is there to lift us up from where we are, into the heart of God, and fill us with enough heat and passion to stand up and move. To step out from our sanctuary doors and give praise to God’s overwhelming life and love in the world, by showing it in our own.
As a pastor, I know that so many of our conversations about the larger church’s survival, these days, center around the question of how our music and words can sound out loud enough into the surrounding community to draw more people into our sanctuaries.
But there might be a different question for us to think over.
…Maybe the question to pass between us as we shout out our love for God in worship is, ‘what are the ways we can step out from our walls, to be with all of them?’ Which days and ways can we step out from God’s house, our hearts and minds full of the sounds and words of worship that empower us to move, and hold out our hands in love to help the people outside our church walls survive the tough stuff of the world?
The way I see it, each of us holding our love and worship for God in our hearts, live as little sanctuaries. Our church is mobile. It doesn’t exist in drywall. It exists in us. And these temples can move through the world and touch more lives than could ever fit in our pews. These temples can move to move the world, and finally help that goosebump-feeling of God’s love spread through the skin of each of those faces standing outside, just past our window.
And, who knows? Maybe all of those ways we let our little sanctuaries move into the world to spread God’s love outside, will fill up each one of those hearts surrounding ours, and leave behind a strange urge in the morning to smile back at God, and stand with us, singing those songs and reading those words of worship, too.