Preparing for Worship – John Kelly.
Saturday morning, I realized I needed to run an errand. A guest room lamp had been out a while, and I needed to replace a couple of bulbs before some friends came into town. “An easy errand,” I assured myself. “I’ll be in and out of Target in no time.”
But when it’s the Saturday before the start of school, and you’re strolling those red and white aisles, I quickly learned it’s every man, woman and child for him, her and themselves. Admittedly, casually texting and finding my way to those sweet General Electric 60 watts, I didn’t immediately grasp the severity of the situation. It wasn’t until I almost slipped on a growing puddle of wide-ruled composition books that I recognized I had crossed into dangerous territory.
Trudging past cardboard troughs of magic markers, parents with kids clamped to their legs barked orders to one another from separate aisles: “We’re short three two-inch binders! Get eyes on those four-packs of AA batteries, stat!” Moms huddled in corners, triple-checking lists — making sure their kids would have everything they need to get the most out of the new year.
It was chaotic. I forgot to pick up new light bulbs.
But as discombobulating as the experience was, parents huddling in the corner of a Target reminds me of how it can feel to “get ready” for times of communal worship. We often feel an odd sense of pressure to have all our ducks in a row — all the right supplies in our cart. We’re worried we’ll have to repeat a grade if we show up having forgotten to pick up a grateful attitude or perfectly conditioned responses to God and our neighbors.
Not at all to say these are inherently bad things. It’s just that the “necessary supplies” list for Jesus’s classroom seems scant.
In Matthew 11:28, all Jesus seems to require from his followers is honest weariness. Come with that in our Trapper Keepers, Jesus says, and we’ll learn the ways of divine rest, day by day. Jesus doesn’t expect his followers to show up on the first day of a new year without heavy burdens. Bring those along for show-and-tell, he explains, and learn to trade them instead for the life-giving yoke of divinity.
This morning, as we prepare to enter into a time of worship together, remember that like any great teacher, Jesus doesn’t expect us to show up perfect. God loves us as we are and delights in who we might grow to be — no matter the kinds of pencils we brought with us this morning. However it might look, our response to God’s loving delight is as true of worship as I can imagine.