Pastor’s Article – November 2017

For the past year, I’ve reflected on one Psalm a week. I felt spending the entire week with a Psalm and reading the Psalm’s entry in a commentary would be a good way to go deeper.

A few weeks ago, I spent the week reflecting on Psalm 84. The psalmist writes,

“1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God. (NRSV)”

Later, he writes,

“10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.”

I’m captured by the psalmist’s passion. Such passion comes from a heart that has encountered God. He faints because he knows without God he won’t survive.

As I read his words, I wondered, do I have this kind of passion? Does my heart yearn for the courts of God? Would I rather be in a place of worship than anywhere else? I’m not so sure.

An Atlantic article addressing a Pew Research Survey shared both good and bad news for churches. I was caught by this finding:

“… about one-fifth of Americans now go to religious services a few times a year, but say they used to go a lot more. Roughly half of this group stopped going as often because of what the researchers called “practical issues”: They are too busy, have a crazy work schedule, or describe themselves as “too lazy” to go. Others said they just don’t care about attending services as much as doing other things.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/religious-participation-survey/496940/)

Did you catch it? Here it is again, “Others said they just don’t care about attending services as much as doing other things.” That’s a far cry from the Psalmist writing, “I would rather spend a day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Do I reflect this cultural shift? Do you? As churches continue to see a decline in worship attendance, the stark reality is, people (dare I say, “we”?) would rather be out and about doing something else.

What’s happening between the psalmist’s ponderings and our current attitude?

There are many contributing factors. For one, culture has changed, giving us more options on a Sunday, squeezing worship out of our schedules. Something has to give and for many, worshiping with the community of faith is seen as unnecessary.

Of course, there are also practical realities. One of the challenges for the church is offering alternative times to gather as a community for worship, rather than only Sunday mornings. While St. Paul has two services on Sunday, if someone works 8 am – 5 pm on Sunday, they are unable to join our worshiping community.

But, I believe there is a more complex issue involved. I want to ask a deeper question: What has happened to our passion for God? While not worshiping together means we gain time to spend with family, get some things done, and participate in various activities, what have we lost? Does our shift in priorities away from worship reflect a decrease in passion? Does our decrease in passion reflect a disconnection with God? Do we sense God with us beyond the Sunday morning worship schedule?

I can only answer those questions for myself.

After spending a week with Psalm 84, I have to ask myself, how can I cultivate the psalmist’s passion? Here is an “action plan” I hope will keep my passion for worship and love for God growing. I invite you to use this plan, or develop your own:

Action Plan

1) Create times where I can listen to worship music/hymns.
2) Worship through the week through prayer and scripture.
3) Reframe my work as Worship.
4) Cultivate a thankful and grateful heart.
5) Look forward in anticipation and expectation to encounter God through community worship.

May you encounter God as you cultivate a growing passion. May your passion cause you to yearn for a deeper connection with God through Jesus.

Peace,

David.