On the Way to Worship

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One of things I made a BIG point about when I was training Sunday School teachers had to do with what they should NOT be doing on the way to church. Three guesses what that might be? No clue? Well, it might not be the first thing on the list of Sunday morning priorities, but preparing your lesson on the way to church was never a good plan.

But there is something else we shouldn’t be doing on the way to church on Sunday morning. In fact, we shouldn’t be doing it at all, but especially not on our way to worship the Lord.

In John 11, right at the end of the chapter, we discover some of the Jews, particularly the religious authorities, plotting how they could get rid of Jesus (11:46-48). That was bad enough. But as the Passover approached—one of the holiest of all Jewish celebrations—things got worse. The text tells us that in preparation for the Passover, people were expected to go through a ceremonial purification (11:55). If you are going to worship God, you need to “get all your spiritual ducks lined up.” That’s some good advice for us—pre-service preparation for the worship of God. It’s not something most of us DO before we arrive at church, and it seldom happens anymore once we get to church. (Remember when we entered the sanctuary quietly, sat down, and then prayed in silence before the service started?)

Anyway, that was the program for the Jews who were preparing for the Passover. But some of them may have been going through the purification ritual but their hearts were far from purified.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, ‘What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?’ But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him” (11:55-57).

Purification? No. Plotting evil and distracting others from the worship of God? Yes. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were concentrating on finding and arresting Jesus rather than concentrating on the God they had come to worship during the Passover celebration. They, bad examples that they were, led the people to be distracted from their worship. Everyone was on the lookout for Jesus. Unhappily they weren’t looking for Him in order to worship Him.

Purify your mind and heart on the way to church? Yes. Plot evil and distract others from worship? No. We’d like to think it doesn’t happen today. But as sure as human nature has not improved over the centuries, it does.

I can hear the voices already—“oh there’s that old fuddy-duddy Lynda, living in the past, longing for the ‘good old days.’” Say what you will, voices, but God deserves a whole lot better than He gets from us as we prepare to worship Him on Sunday morning.

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