A few nights ago I had a dream. It started off innocently enough. My family and I were at church with all the usual suspects and we were celebrating. A few individuals had accomplished something within the community so, the church was very crowded with family and friends; some I had seen before and some I had not (you know how dreams are). People were laughing and happy and focused on celebrating what these individuals had accomplished. We were all so pleased and proud. Smiling faces were everywhere.
As the dream went on, the production kept growing. There were a few songs with the platform crowded with people singing. Then, it grew into song after song and story after story. People were walking around, laughing and joking having a very pleasurable time. The church was packed everywhere I went. People were standing around the pews, crowded in the back area. Everywhere there was a spot, there was a person. The hallways were even teeming with people.
In my dream as I walked from the back of the church into the auditorium, I heard a prominent figure tell a bawdy joke about someone. I remember at that point I said out loud, “You are kidding me, right?” I began to grow really angry. I felt my body begin to shake with rage. But, the people thought I was part of the act and kept laughing. The entertainment kept growing and growing until there were literally feathers and costumes and a huge production of something related to Star Wars. I was asked by one individual if I wanted to join in and I said, “No”.
He said, “Oh, you’re not a Star Wars fan?”
I replied, “I am, just not on a Sunday morning.”
I remember walking around getting angrier and angrier. ‘How could this have been allowed on a Sunday morning?’ I thought, ‘Aren’t we here to worship the Lord’? I was still literally shaking with anger. I could not believe we were doing this! How could this have happened? When were things allowed to get out of hand? I kept searching for the pastor, the deacons…anyone who could explain the chaos to me. I just could not believe that we had allowed this to happen. How had things gotten so out of control?
It was all so bizarre! I woke up and thought, “What in the world was that about?” I laid there in bed remembering all the craziness and began to ask God very timidly, “Is that how You see our services? Are we just performing things? Are we there only for our own entertainment? Are You shaking in anger as you look at us each week?”
I was reminded of Jesus in the Temple in Mark 11. The Word tells us that Jesus drove out those who were not there to worship. When He saw the mockery of His Temple, the place where true worship was supposed to occur, the Scriptures tell us that He cleaned out the thievery and the hypocrisy. The Temple must have seemed like a production to Him, a sideshow, (there were definitely feathers).
Is this what Jesus wants to do in our church? Does He want to teach us what entertainment versus worship is? Is He asking our spirits each week, ‘How did you let it get like this?’ Is He angry with what we call worship?
Oh, I am convicted. I am convicted and frustrated with myself for letting my focus be on things other than my Lord each Sunday. I sometimes go into a service with the best of intentions, but then I focus on announcements or, a word that was said in the hallway or, any other distraction. By the time I am called to corporate worship, I am looking for how it is affecting me, not my Lord.
I think of the soldiers at the foot of the Cross gambling for Jesus’ cloak. In the shadow of the greatest sacrifice of all time, their focus was on what they could get out of it. They were fighting and grasping for how they could reap some kind of benefit. They had no clue that the true reward was within their grasp. They were on their knees, but they were on their knees in the wrong direction!
Am I? Am I on my knees, but still worshiping the wrong thing?
The soldiers focus was on the wrong thing, so they missed the greatest thing.
Each week, do I lose the thrill of worshiping my Savior because I have allowed the entertainment of the day to crowd in?
God tells me in I Peter to “Be ye holy as I am holy”, but my only thoughts are often of me. I agree with Paul in Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”
The encouraging thing about Mark 11 and Romans 7 is that there is hope. Mark 11 does show us that in one swipe of Jesus’ hand, things can be put back to the way that God would have them to be. With one entrance of our holy God, the Temple was on good ground was again. It was cleaned through and through, at least for a time. The passage in Romans 7 also goes on to tell us that through Jesus we can be set free.
So, why do I let the shackles still rub my skin raw? Why do I continue to crave entertainment instead of worship?
Oh, I need the hand of God! I need Him to sweep through my home, my church and my very being to make me into the clean vessel that I am called to be, a vessel that craves the One, True God and not a cheap imitation for entertainment.
Now there was also another part of my dream that was convicting… the crowd. People were everywhere! The more entertainment I saw, the happier the crowd became.
Will our church have crowds like that when Jesus turns us from our entertainment to Himself? Somehow I doubt it (at least in the beginning). Will the people around me be okay if after the sweep of God, we aren’t as “entertained”? What if our corporate worship is truly about God and not about us? Are we okay with that? Will I truly be satisfied when the focus is off of self and onto God?
Being holy as God is holy will require leaving the entertainment behind. Am I willing to do that? If God truly sees a performance instead of worship, what am I willing to do about it? Am I going to let things go on as they are so that people will leave happy and impressed or, am I willing to do the hard thing and pray UNTIL there is a mighty move of God to whatever direction he has for us? Do I want God or, my entertainment?
These were not easy thoughts to wake up to that morning. This crazy dream has caused me to really look at our church and the unnecessary things that go on to make us comfortable. There is way too much entertainment and not enough focus on our Lord. But, am I going to start a riot? No. I am called to pray and when God decides the timing is right He will come with a riot of His own. He loves us too much to allow the entertainment to continue. He loves us too much to not call us to His side in tender rebuke. He loves us too much to allow us to gamble in the shadow of true Redemption. He loves us too much to be entertained.