How does one prepare for worship when we’re as scattered as we are today? When you can come to worship in your pajamas with breakfast laid out in front of you, how much preparation do you really need?
Having been at home watching the livestream along with you the last two Sundays instead of being present in the Sanctuary, I get how hard it is to turn our minds toward worship. No car ride to change the scene. No pews to sit in and reflect before the service. None of the usual people on the pew adjacent. No printed worship folder to hold in your hand.
As many of us are discovering with the current work-at-home scheme, it’s hard to suddenly make your living space your workspace without major distraction. We are so easily distracted. At church, we more likely find the meaning of the word “sanctuary” as a place set apart, a place of reverence and quiet, a place to talk to and hear from God. A place where we’re not tempted to get up and wash the dirty dishes or change the laundry when the buzzer goes off.
The challenge of these days is finding focus.
Oh, my! There is so much to distract us right now. The constant news cycle, the constant worry, the need to adapt our work and keep an income stream going, the kids with schooling at home, the normal life illnesses that we worry might be the first signs of something much worse, news of friends and family for whom something worse has indeed happened.
The church where I grew up in Oklahoma didn’t have fancy stained glass windows to tell Bible stories. It was a quickly built church of 1960s suburban growth. But under the balcony, on the little lip of plain wood molding you saw when you sat in the back of the sanctuary, someone had placed small strips of Manila poster paper — the kind you might have seen on classroom bulletin boards — with handwritten Bible verses. One of those that I remember to this day was from Psalm 46:10 — “Be still and know that I am God.”
Why would a wiggly elementary-age Mark remember that verse? Because it was so hard to obey. It was hard to be still. It still is hard to be still.
Maybe we all should take out a piece of paper right now and write out this simple reminder to place on the top of our computer screens, tablets or televisions: Be still and know that I am God.
Wherever you are seated as you prepare for worship today, let us together find stillness, remembering the experience of the prophet Elijah, who did not find God in the whirlwind or in the fire or in the earthquake — but instead found God in the still small voice. Listen.