Our worship team had a quarterly meeting this week. Someone brought up the idea of allowing people to feel free to sit during the worship time. We always invite people to stand for the worship but for some people, standing may be physically difficult or they may be exhausted from a tough night before. Other people may prefer to worship while sitting or still others may feel condemned or judged if they sit--like they've been disrespectful to the Lord.
One Sunday, I watched my dad slowly kneel down, his hands holding the pew in front of him tightly. When he tried to stand per the commanded ritual, his faced grimaced with pain and his knuckles whitened at his tightened grip on the pew. The suffocating temperature in the sanctuary added to his effort, causing beads of sweat to stream down his face.
"Dad, why do you kneel if it is so hard to and hurts you so bad?" My question was from a child's heart breaking over her dad's painful dedication.
"Because that's what we have to do in church," he grunted through labored breaths.
I looked around at the unaffected congregation. The mass continued, people carried on their sacrificial acts, children fidgeted, and the priests performed their tasks methodically. I was angry that such a place, such a God would want my dad to be in pain every Sunday.
My dad passed away when my first son was born. But before he died, he came out to visit and we talked much about the traditional faith we grew up in and the freedom I learned to accept from Jesus. I attended a different church now and his inquisitiveness was tempered with fear I'd lost my reverence of God--the same God we both loved and worshipped.
"Dad, it matters if we both believe in Jesus and have accepted that he is truly the one we've let into our hearts and lives as our God and savior. The name on the church and the methods of it's mass or service don't change this one truth."
Sit, stand, kneel ... as I explore these thoughts on accepting people around us the way God made them and loving each other with the heart and eyes of Jesus, I simply want to extend grace and mercy.
On your knees? What really would Jesus expect?
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:15-18 NIV1984)
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