A DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT by Barbara Latter
I confess to being a classical music nerd. Most days my portable speaker is with me wherever in the house I am working, tuned in to a San Francisco classical radio station. It is usually just background music, but occasionally a strain will prick my ears and I turn it up and live in the moment with the music.
Such a time happened recently when I heard the first strains of Brahms’s How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place. The soaring melody and dramatic counterparts never cease to move my soul. The text is taken directly from Psalm 84 and I reached for my Bible to read the words again:
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!
The words were like a gut-punch! I said to myself, “I miss church!” I’ll bet you’ve said that a few times too, during this long shut down. While I am grateful for the video services, I sorely miss gathering together.
The writer of this psalm felt this loss deeply. It is presumed he was a Levite who normally served in the temple, but was now cut off by an enemy overtaking Judah. He envied the birds having free access to the place where the Spirit of God resided. In a parallel Psalm, Ps. 42, the writer describes how his very being is thirsting for the living God. He laments how he, “would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”
What is it about being in church? We know God is everywhere. We know we don’t need to be in a special place to feel His presence. Yet, when we gather it seems God is nearer. I think this happens because we can see the love of God on each face. They mirror our own joy of being in God’s house.
Over the last months I have adjusted my approach to worshiping at home. I’ve come to realize the importance of these “Three ‘B’s of Worship.”
Be Intentional. Deliberately schedule and set aside a time you are going to watch the video or listen to the CD. It may be consistently the same time, or it can vary from week to week. At our house we plan to be at our computer at 9:30 on Sunday. There’s nothing sacred about the time – the important thing is to plan and carve out a specific time.
Be Prepared. Prepare your heart in prayer before you begin. We never know what word or song will touch us in a special way. When we are “prayed up” our senses are more focused on what is happening before us and God has opportunity to speak and teach us in new ways.
Be a Participant not a Spectator. It’s easy to view the video or listen to the CD in almost the same way we listen to the radio or watch TV. Worship is not only a responsibility of those singing, praying and preaching, it is also our calling to commune with our God. Do you sing along with the hymns? Granted, it’s much easier to sing with a group of people at church. But really, our praise is always only to an audience of One. He is delighted with our participation. So sing heartily—even if you’re the only one in the room. Also, pray earnestly along with the one leading the prayer. Agree in your heart and use the time to draw closer to your Lord and Savior.
One day soon we will all be together again and our time will be sweeter because of the long absence. And the “Three ‘B’s” will be just as appropriate when we are together as they are when we are apart.