Incense and Raised
As a boy, I attended an early Sunday morning “Breaking of Bread Service” at our Plymouth Brethren assembly called Maplewood Bible Chapel. I can guarantee that there was no incense or hand raisin’ in those meetings. When I worshiped with my Kenyan brothers and sisters in Kakamega and Webuye there was a lot of hand raisin’. In fact they didn’t just raise their hands. They got up and the entire congregation lined up and danced before the LORD (effectively used to dissipate a lot of potential fidgeting before the hour-long sermon).
Two weeks later I went to South Korea, and students there didn’t want to raise their hands or get up and dance. Then when I returned to Texas a friend, a missionary kid, burst with enthusiasm as he described how stained glass, gothic arches, altars, and aromas breathed nearness to His Father in awe and reverence during his recent trip to Europe.
This summer has obviously bounced me around from one form of worship to another and the constant debate that rages over what form works for us.
I still resonate with the quietness, and the “Quaker –like” simplicity of my first experiences of communion, but when King David compares his prayers to incense and mentions that he lifts his palms to the Lord in prayer, I have to ask, “If God in the Old Testament responded to the beauty of aroma and the involvement of the body when His children prayed, have His likes and dislikes changed so drastically when it comes to the different ways we worship in our day?”
“O LORD, I call to You; come to me quickly. Hear my voice when I call.
May my prayer be placed before You as incense, may the lifting of my palms be like the evening sacrifice.“ Psalm 141:1-2
LORD, one of my friends, an influential elder, told me that his church continues to wrestle with whether or not the lights should be bright or dark and whether the volume should be loud or soft during worship. Please help me to direct these conversations into what You want in worship at different times and different situations. Most of all, whether it’s in Kenya, South Korea, Europe, or Texas, move me out of my critical, evaluation grading mode when I gather with different brothers and sisters to adore You. Help me to forget about myself and express my love from the core of my soul.
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