A Sinner Walks into a Church

I love God’s rhythms. Maybe seasonal rhythms, cow, or sparrow rhythms I notice around the Barnyard of Heaven. Or, especially, rhythms I participate in with others at a church service. The rhythms we take part in which shape our loves.

No need to tell me what you really love? Just show me your rhythms.

I can’t pinpoint when I fell in love with the ancient rhythms of a church service beautifully orchestrated by my pastors. It simply grew with repetition. Maybe it was the crescendo I felt moving me in a Gospel reenactment toward the climax – a meal with God.

Maybe it was the discovery that God was working inside the rhythms, top-down, to transform my heart. A worship service wasn’t a place for me to explore creative new ways to express myself to God, though I did. It was more like a dance between lovers where neither partner feels compelled to impress each other. But oh, the intimacy flowing between us!

After hundreds of repetitions, I’m still stunned by the order of the first two elements of the ancient rhythms passed down by our spiritual fathers. First element: God Calls Us. Second element: God Cleanses Us.

What?!

Shouldn’t these elements be reversed? God knows, and I know, that I’m dragging myself into church a sinner, poor and wretched, weak and weary, sick and sore. But that’s okay. I join my fellow worshippers with a greeting of peace, recite together a Psalm, pray, sing a song and hymn of praise.

Then, God cleanses us as we confess our sins corporately and individually, punctuated by a scriptural reminder of God’s promise of forgiveness.

Gone are the days of trying to perform, behave ourselves, or pretend we’re not filthy. He wants us. He wants to hear our praise. But leave the cleansing ‘til later. He’ll get to it. He’ll be the one to do it. He’ll take a basin and towel and wash our dirty hearts. Whoa!

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:17, KJV)

Prayer: My beautiful, dynamic, loving, Triune God. I hear Your call to worship. Your acceptance of me is astounding. You call be by name. I respond to that call with praise. Thank you for cleansing and healing my body and soul. Amen.

Photo Credit: Pharisee and publican

Pursued

During the traverse between the snowdrift she was born in and the calving stall she should have been born in, Blossom and I weren’t alone.  Twelve hundred pounds of Holstein protective fury pursued us. Big Mama!

I felt her hot breath come in snorts. She wanted to climb into my back pocket. My anxiety about whether she aimed to trample me sprang from times when it had happened. Didn’t matter whether I wanted to stop and catch my breath, or get a tighter grip on Blossom, Big Mama’s pursuit compelled me forward.

Big Mama blurted out a series of intimidating guttural bellows. Blossom chimed in with her own high-pitched distress bawl. Adrenaline surged through our veins. Big Mama was up for a fight. I favored flight.

I survived the stumbling scamper to the calving stall. Blossom lies safe in pile of fresh straw. Big Mama diverts her attention from kill-the-cowherd mode to that of an EMT first-responder and begins to energetically lick and nudge her shivering, steaming calf to rev up her circulation.

This maternity drama resolved positively. Not all do. A deep sense of satisfaction percolated through me. I participated in a ritual as the rescuer, reminded of my perpetual need to be rescued.

I envied Blossom. Big Mama passionately pursued her. Something in me longed to feel valuable, longed to be pursued.

Take A Deep Breath of Remember: Do you long to catch a glimpse of a loving Father eagerly pursuing you, zealous to bend your heart toward Him? Or, do you ever come stumbling toward home tarnished from the pigsty , staring at the dust rising from your bare plodding feet, rehearsing your excuses? Your best hope is to be counted among the hired hands. Then you glance up and see him. Without need for dignity, he comes running toward you, both hands clutching his robe, hiking it up so he can sprint. It’s your Father. He’s been waiting for you. He throws his arms around you and lifts you off your feet. He kisses you and orders his best robe to cover you. Cover you from your nakedness, poverty and rags. He means to do you good. (Adapted from the parable of the prodigal, Luke 5:11-32)

Prayer: Father, we are valuable because we are yours. Thank you for pursuing us through your son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Let your goodness and mercy pursue us today.