As I walked into the gym, the volume of voices confused and then dismayed me. I had arrived a little late for the church service at an Adventist academy and expected to find worshipers eager to hear the word of God. Instead, the speaker at the microphone couldn’t be heard above the dull roar of people visiting and wandering back and forth on the periphery. One woman chattered loudly to her friend during the prayer and then sat behind me and continued talking to her husband.
I thought back to summer camp when my roommate and I were preparing for the Friday evening service. We came out on the veranda outside our room as the sun was going down, only to be met with a gauntlet of water balloons! It was kind of funny, but it marred the reverence of the Sabbath. My roommate stayed and dealt with the barrage, while I opted to go to the amphitheater in the trees overlooking Hayden Lake to prepare my heart for worship.
And it reminded me of a time when friends visited at my home church years ago. Sadly enough, they remarked that we Adventists aren’t reverent in the sanctuary compared with other denominations. I could only sputter “but, but...” in protest—and then realized there was truth in what was said. What does one answer to such a statement? I wanted to defend my people—God’s people!
However, there is something to be said for the cultural aspect inherent to the Northwest. We are somewhat casual in our dress, and our worship services tend to be less formal than in other regions of the nation. But the lack of formality (or what some would perceive as meaningless rigidity) does not equate to irreverence. It reflects a value system, where props, ritual and fancy trappings do not bespeak matters of the heart.
And whether the worship is stilted and highly organized or very simplistic, attitudes of reverence stem from the level of humility in us. In the story Jesus told of the difference between the worship of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18), one prayed boastfully while the other humbly threw himself on the mercy of the Lord. It was the attitude of each that determined if the worship was acceptable to the Father.
Lest we worry that our earthly attempts at reverence and worship are inadequate and unacceptable to God, we are so blessed. When we are truly humble and reaching out to God from the depths of our hearts, the Holy Spirit can (as with our inadequate prayers) take our attempts at worship and make them acceptable in the heavenly courts!
Sometimes in our worship, though, we can get lulled into a sense of God being just a friend, as an equal. This may come from the Protestant theological slant of “grace” clouding the preeminence of God, allowing us in our friendship with Him to just enjoy that camaraderie and not come to Him for help or inspiration. But He is a friend and more—our Creator and Savior who deserves our humble, heartfelt worship.
God does expect homage from us, and He is certainly worthy of that and more! We owe Him everything and really give so little. But it is a comfort to know that even when we are not "doing," He still loves us, in spite of ourselves.
There are times when I long to be with God, my Father—to speak to Him and to hear His voice. When I come into His sanctuary, I feel as if time stands still while I get in touch with Him. This is the God of the universe that Moses and other saints approached with reverence and awe, with fear and trembling! And yet He is the gentle God who tenderly wipes away our tears and says, “Rest in Me." Perhaps, as events draw us closer to the time when we can be with our Maker, we each need to reevaluate our connection with Him and reevaluate our "reverence quotient."