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Right Worship

The teenager in baggy pants, canned soft drink in hand, slunk into the sanctuary just before the worship service began. Occasionally he would take a sip (actually it was more like a chug) and then place the can under the pew in front of him.

The teenager in baggy pants, canned soft drink in hand, slunk into the sanctuary just before the worship service began. Occasionally he would take a sip (actually it was more like a chug) and then place the can under the pew in front of him.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
This went on for weeks, the same routine: the last-minute arrival, the slouchy walk, the soda-drinking, even after the service had started.
I didn’t like it, not one bit. I thought it was irreverent and disrespectful. And I just knew at some point he was going to kick over that can, spilling the dark cola onto the carpet.
Occasionally that canned soft drink and its owner occupied more of my focus during the worship service than the music, the prayers, the scriptures or the sermon.
Eventually I realized that I, not he, was wrong.
Scottish minister and teacher Oswald Chambers wrote: “If we are not heedful of the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other folks are failing, and we turn our discernment into the gibe of criticism instead of into intercession on their behalf. … Take care lest you play the hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right before you worship God yourself.”
As far as I know, the teenager continued to bring his canned drink into the worship service each week, but thankfully I quit focusing on that. I began to notice instead how he always went and sat with his widowed father, who would greet him with a smile and a pat on the back. The boy would always return the gestures with a broad grin.  
As critical as we’ve become about worship—what’s right, what’s best, what’s appropriate, what’s not—you’d think there are a lot of worship rules. There are, in fact, not.
If we simply must have a rule, perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah, which Jesus thought important enough to repeat: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mk 11:17a).
That includes teenagers who choose to bring soft drinks into worship with them.
I would be dishonest if I said it would no longer bother me. But the fact is, like a lot of things, it’s none of my business.
Worship is not about me and what I want. It’s about God and what God deserves: our highest reverence, devotion, praise, gratitude and service. And our gracious inclusiveness that reflects the way God has graciously included each of us, even when we carry into God’s presence things we really don’t need.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.
 
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