Preparing for Worship

by | Apr 12, 2024 | Preparing For Worship

By Scott Spreier.

Breathe in … breathe out ….

If you’ve come to worship this morning under a dark cloud, you’re not alone. ’Tis the season of scapegoating; a season in which we twist Christ’s assertion that it’s “more blessed to give …” and anoint evil and blame on others in order to make ourselves feel better — even holier — than them.

Be it religion or race, politics or global conflict, even March Madness, we just can’t help but demonize those we disagree with, those we see as different from us. It’s habit forming. Even before our morning coffee we turn to our favorite media outlet to see who’s trashing whom. No wonder the U.S. is ranked the second most depressed nation globally, just behind — surprise — Ukraine.

So where can we find hope and joy in these troubled times? For me, the first is easy: worshiping at Wilshire. I continually find joy and hope in our community — in its people and the message of hope I hear through word and song. Finding it elsewhere is trickier. We must seek it out, sometimes in unusual places.

Like prison.

Recently I started spending an afternoon every week or so at a state correctional facility, discussing life with a group of young felons. On returning home after one session, my wife, Jeanne, asked why I was always so happy when I came home from prison. Good question. It wasn’t that I was doing “good work.” Rather, it was discussing everyday life with a community of incarcerated men who seemed happier and more positive than most of us on the outside. After much study and self-reflection, these men have taken full responsibility for their pre-prison life. There is no finger pointing, no scapegoating, but rather an atmosphere of hope and joy.

Intentionally or not, they have discovered something we often overlook: We are all God’s children. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton observed, just as a tree gives glory to God by being a tree, we give glory to God by being the humans God created us to be. These men also reminded me, again to quote Merton, that “we should not be too sure of having found Christ in ourselves until we have found Him also in that part of humanity that is most remote from our own.”

As God’s children, perhaps it’s time we all stopped scapegoating and started listening to and understanding one another.

Breathe in … breathe out … and be at peace.