Have you heard this one yet? There were three people who attended a nursing home worship service: the agnostic, the Alzheimer’s patient, and the good Christian.
Through every lull in the service the agnostic grumbled about the God Who didn’t answer his prayers.
The Alzheimer’s patient was enjoying the service, singing her own selection of songs from the hymnal. Keeping her on the same page as the others was futile.
The good Christian informed everyone that she never missed Sunday worship, had dressed in her Sunday best, knew the proper order of service and awaited the pastor’s lead. Sizing up the other two worshippers, the pastor leaned heavily upon her encouragement to help salvage what promised to be an interesting worship time.
However, he was sorely disappointed because she continually chastised him, “You’re singing too low! You’re singing too low!”
A wonderfully diverse group of worshippers. Certainly a humorous story, but it wasn’t a joke.
As each person shared their personal worship idiosyncrasies, I smiled to God and tried to thank Him for His lesson of patience.
I say “tried,” because I wasn’t so sure that I wanted this lesson. At the time I didn’t recognize just know deep the lesson would go.
In Acts 2, Luke speaks of the church regularly meeting together, sharing, praying, worshipping, instructing and caring for one another. I didn’t take note at the nursing home of the full import of the early church gathering to encourage, support and remind one another of the presence of the Lord “when two or three are gathered together.”
I have often stated that these three worshipping people taught me about patience. As I was just preparing a message using this illustration, God revealed the fallacy of my thinking. There weren’t three people in worship that day; leading the service I was the fourth. And, it became clear to me that, of those four people in the room, it was only my worship attitude that God had good reason to question.
The agnostic came to God, beating his chest in anguish, seeking God’s presence and answers. He’d lost his wife to illness while away at war. His prayers had gone unanswered. He was hurting, and begged to know, “Why did this have to happen?” He desperately wanted to believe God could hear him.
I pray that God has heard his cries, and provided him the comfort that only Christ can offer.
The Alzheimer’s patient worshipped God in total focus, singing in all pleasure to her Lord, regardless if it was a different song than the rest.
The good Christian might not have expressed herself kindly, but she, too, desired to worship God with excellence.
I alone had not focused my attention on the Lord’s pleasure. I thought I was there with all the answers; that it was I (and my helper, God) there to show these three the proper way. Sadly, I recognize myself in this passage, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11).
I had liked how my message began as a joke, promising a bit of humor. I didn’t see where God was going to take me before I’d finished.
I don’t delight in correction, but I am glad I have arrived at this unexpected conclusion. I realize in a deeper way I need all of the body of Christ for encouragement, support, love, patience, forgiveness and teaching— and that includes these three. And, I especially need the Lord.
God has corrected my course again. I need His correction, grace, forgiveness and presence. I no longer recognize those three with the arrogance of how wonderfully patient I was “putting up with” their worship.
Humbly, I come before the Lord knowing I don’t have it all together, I don’t have all the answers. I am not perfect. But I have found the One who is.
I want to remain in this state of dependency upon the body and blood of Christ. I need His church to be patient with me, encouraging, supporting, lovingly correcting and training me, so that I stay on track until the day the Lord says, “welcome home, good and faithful servant.”
The Rev. Steve Lyons is pastor of First Christian Church, in Milton-Freewater. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.