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A Matter of Focus

A Matter of Focus

If you have ever done much long distance driving in a car or truck, at one time or another you probably have had the experience of cruising along for several miles without really paying attention to where you were or how far you had gone. Perhaps you "woke up" having just missed the exit you were supposed to take, or you discovered you had passed through a community without even seeing it off to the side of the freeway. I am absent minded enough that I can accomplish such mindless feats just driving around town! I suspect that almost anything experienced on a repetitive basis can lead to an “automatic pilot” response, a going through the motions. Sometimes conversations with our children, or meal times together as families, or the routines established in our jobs fall prey to this mindless procedure.
What about our worship assemblies? For forty or fifty years now, with little variation, worship assemblies have followed the same basic course: two or three songs, a prayer, a song, communion and contribution, perhaps a scripture reading and/or another song, the sermon, invitation song, announcements, and dismissal. We may shuffle the order occasionally, add or subtract a song from time to time. But basically, we all know very well what to expect. Variances from expectations are not taken lightly, and serve as notable and noticed exceptions.
Unfortunately, sheer repetition lures us in our humanity to turn on the automatic pilot and cruise through songs and prayers and communion and sermons just like we cruise through towns along the Freeway without seeing or knowing where we have been. Making stylistic changes may break the routine, but it does not solve the problem any more than changing the vehicle you are driving. What would help in the assembly, however, would be the recognition of why we are really here. We have not come to satisfy religious requirements, nor simply to visits with friends, or even to have our own spiritual needs met. We come together as community to encounter the Creator--God himself.
If, each time we assembled together, we all came with the expectation and intent of encountering God, how would it change our experience of worship? How would it affect our concerns for style and order and tradition? The why of worship must be understood if we are ever going to overcome the "automatic pilot" response. This coming Sunday, the task is not to "wow" our guests or ourselves by the size of the crowds and the ritual of our service, but to facilitate an encounter with God that is life changing for everyone present. It's all a matter of focus!
John O. York

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