Have you ever gone to a music concert? Often when artists provide concerts there are provided backstage passes to an exclusive few. It could be a contest winner, or some special circumstances that give the chance to “meet and greet the artist”. It is rare and special. To have that kind of access may be desired by many but most do not expect it. God is not like that!
When we go to a worship experience do we not all desire to have access to God? We look for access to persons, pastor, and God. We come with an expectation of a good, if not great experience of faith community and of God. There are two challenges to the worship participant in order to have the experience we hope for. 1. We need to search for it. The second is to be open and receptive.
We start with the presumption that as much as we want to find God, God is also wanting to find and make contact with us. We need anticipate, look and listen for the touch of the Holy Spirit in every aspect and experience. We need to be receptive to it in everything from the getting ready at home through the meal afterward. We want to find it on the way into the church, in every person we meet and throughout our church experience. We look for it in the opportunities announced, music, prayers, message, the people, and even the order of worship. We may find it in the weather or the views along the way to and from the church. Presume you will meet God and more likely than not you will experience “the presence” in more than one way.
Making the effort is not too hard and most often produces great results. The greater challenge which if not overcome actually interferes with the first efforts is receptivity and openness to God. What access do we provide to God? Are we wide open and ready for God to reach and speak to us or are our minds and hearts narrowed or even closed? Do we limit God’s access to our “backstage”? Imagine God is trying through every opportunity available to reach in and touch us to get close, and to build relationship with us. Sometimes I describe our openness to God with a metaphor of stargazing. We want to see the heavens, observe the stars, be filled with wonder, but instead of lying down with our eyes wide open we try to examine the stars through a straw. Indeed we will likely see a few, but that is not likely to fill us with awe, and there is a lot of grace we will miss. t is not the most effective. The more we narrow our vision, the less we see.
We need to be careful to not close our eyes, ears, hearts or minds which would limit God’s access to us. For example, if we sing a song we don’t like our judgment of the song may close our minds to how it was being used to bring God to us. If we have a difficult encounter with a person, we could close our hearts to others or turn inward away from community and experience. If we don’t like the message we may judge the whole worship experience by our dissatisfaction. We could come away from worship less than blessed. Not because God wasn’t present and reaching out but because we limited the access narrowing our receptivity leaving both us and God less than satisfied.
Great worship is a “shared” experience in which all participate; leaders, people and God all working together to create a moment of connection that changes lives and indeed our world.