Monday, September 7, 2009


"I didn't get anything out of worship today."

"I am not getting fed."


If I had a dollar for each time I heard these questions (usually before an exit of a parishioner or before a critique of what I am doing wrong,) I would be rich. Well, I am not rich and I make no excuses for those days when I plan and execute crummy worship. In my defense, I have good days, too.


I remain sad, however, at one of the toughest spiritual maladies to cure. "Itsaboutmeitis."  Itsaboutmeitis occurs in a spiritual life when the reference point of everything is the thoughts/feelings of the worshiper. I think God cares about every worshiper. I doubt he sets out to starve anyone. He will take care of us. The problem arises when worship becomes a consumer product rather than an encounter with God, offer for God. What we need and want are the fruit of true worship.


Some Sundays, I say at the Offertory, "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come into his courts." (1 Chronicles 16:29,) which goes on "worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness." These are not just words to shake down the faithful with. They remind us that worship is about we, the worshipers, aiming our lives, toward God because he is holy and glorious. It just so happens that, out of that holy and glory, comes all sorts of spiritual (and material) goodies. The equation is this. I show up on God's time to love God – God responds in great love for me. I am full to overflowing. God wants lovers to mess with in worship.


The Itsaboutmeitis consumer takes a different track. The equation is, "I am sacrificing precious time, God, humor me." Quid pro quo. God is not amused. Hurt, maybe, but not amused. Frequently, the worshiper finds someone or something to blame for the lack of a good time and moves on elsewhere to find an experience that will amuse but not threaten. One that asks little but delivers much. It is not there. It is a destinationless quest.


How do I approach worship? Is it a job? A coin in the cosmic slot machine? Do I enter into dangerous play with a lover? Am I open to being messed with? Can I check my consumer rights at the door and be open to the transforming and very non-Western holy and glory?

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