I look at the sky. It may be bright, clear, and blue. It may be full of puffy white clouds, seeming to float, hardly moving, but as I look more carefully, I can see that there are several layers of clouds. Or the sky can be dark, with rain pouring down, the landscape occasionally brightened by a bolt of lightning. On a dark night I see the stars in predictable patterns, a few seem brighter than the rest…and there is the milky-way. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have put in place…” Psalm 8:3-4 At such moments I may worship God – it just happens.
I watch a doe leap a five foot fence…and a chipmunk running with a nut in his mouth – cheeks bulging. I see daddy long legs – how can those legs work? I wonder at the beauty, sounds, and mechanics of the humming bird, the bee. The hawk soars without a sound. And the butterfly? Perhaps it is enjoying lunch on a bright yellow flower. I see the robin feeding her young. I watch ants working together, and I am fascinated. I hear honking, and hundreds of feet above I see geese flying in formation, knowing that when the lead goose get’s tired, another will take his place. “And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25
When God gave the directions for the building of the ark, the directions were clear, the boat was constructed, it held all it was supposed to, and it floated for a long, long time. The temple Solomon built was incredibly beautiful, down to the last detail. And there God made Solomon a promise: “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commandments and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David you father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” I Kings 6:11-13
God does good work. We too are to do good work, and we can, if we put our minds, guided by God’s spirit, to the task.
Christ church of Oak Brook is a very simple, very beautiful structure. The steel beams that form the pyramid roof remain exposed; the peak is 40 feet from the floor. The ceiling above the beams looks like pine paneling – it is very thick! The contrast between the warm color and smoothness of the wood and the solid, gray stone walls is dramatic. The frosted windows are framed in heavy, dark wood – very simple. As people arrive on Sunday morning, they may talk with their friends or greet visitors in the large foyer. As people enter the sanctuary, they are entering a different world. A true sanctuary: peaceful, beautiful. The carefully prepared bulletin contains the content necessary for a visitor to feel comfortable in this place. When the organ stops, we hear the call to worship…and then silence. When the organ begins again, the congregation really sings. It may be a hymn of reflection, prayer, praise, or commitment. The pastoral prayer has been carefully prepared to put into words the feelings of our hearts, be they praise, brokenness, struggle, or intersession. The prayer will also seek to help us talk to God about things we have not thought about, perhaps would rather not think about. The twenty minute sermon seeks to open a passage of scripture to help those who have come to understand its meaning, and some of the implications for us, God’s people. The message may be troublesome, but when it is over, there will be a strong message of good news. The world brings to each of us enough bad news.
This past Sunday I went to church with Russ and Mary Vought. They had told me the worship service was two hours. Four hundred people filled the old sanctuary, the majority being between 20 and 40 years of age. After announcements were made, an invitation was given: “Let us worship God.” There was instant quiet as people prepared their hearts to participate interactively with the God of their creation. The grand piano, with one guitar and one vocalist, led the singing, though I was unaware of their presence. Several times two hymns were sung, one right after the other – each sung boldly and up to tempo. The prayers, all of them, were very carefully prepared to guide us in our praying. The pastor encouraged us to follow his reading of the chosen passage in our Bibles. He gave the page # in the pew bible. The pastor read the three chapters upon which the sermon was based, with clarity, with power. The back cover of the bulletin was blank “for sermon notes”. As the word of God was opened to us, the pastor clearly identified his outline for us note takers. After the last hymn and the benediction we quietly sat down and had a few moments to reflect upon our experience, perhaps to pray. When I left, though a visitor, I was very aware that I had been with God’s people in God’s house. It was good to be in the house of my Lord.
Is it possible for every church to provide the context for worship, to bring encouragement for those who come? Is it possible for us to leave feeling “and it was good.” I have had this experience in a country church of 25 and in a city church of 4,000. God created the deer, the butterfly – and the elephant, each uniquely suited for its environment, each with its family. Is it possible for the members of the church to work together as one body? God thinks so. Roman’s 12: Because we are sinful, all of this requires work, but the work may be enjoyable when the church body functions in the way designed by God. God has dwelt in Solomon’s temple, in caves with hiding believers, in thatched roofed shelters. God comes where He is welcome. Let us work to remove the distractions so we may worship, and hear from, the one true God.