Terms and Conditions for Worship

April 16, 2015

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. Exodus 19:10-12

Do you remember the first time a “Terms and Conditions” window popped up on your computer screen, requiring you to agree to a long, long list of conditions before you were able to download that particular app? I do. The lawyer in me leaped into action and I read the entire, long, dry, boring agreement, only to conclude that I had just wasted several minutes of my life that I would never get back. I will confess this to you right here and now…this lawyer never reads those things any more, except possibly to scan them for dollar signs, just to make sure I’m not agreeing to pay something. I may be lazy, but I’m also cheap.

Terms and ConditionsWhen the Hebrew slaves were freed from Egypt in order to travel to Mt. Sinai to worship their God, they had their own “Terms and Conditions” experience. After three months of wondering through the wilderness, they landed at Mt. Sinai. Just as they clicked “Download” for the “Worship I Am” app, God’s pop-up window appeared to Moses with some pretty severe Terms and Conditions for Worshipping the great I Am. And all those harsh terms fall under one sobering category: REVERENCE. Any fair reading of Exodus (or pretty much any of the rest of scripture) renders the same conclusion: the God Who created the universe takes “reverence” seriously.

Remember Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-7), who was struck down for merely touching the Ark of the Covenant? Remember Cain’s offering(Genesis 4:3-7) which was less than his best? Remember Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-5), who were struck down for lying about their tithe? As it turns out, God cares more than we can possibly imagine about the state of our hearts when we approach Him. Anything less than complete and total reverence for Who He is and for His Holiness is, well, dangerous…to say the least.

The irony is that our human condition makes us much more inclined to take note of someone else’s “irreverence” than of our own. We look at how “those people” worship and we make all kinds of snarky comments about how irreverent it is and about how wrong their hearts obviously are, while all the time we ourselves are fully capable of sitting in worship and thinking about everything EXCEPT God. For many of us, our day of gathered worship has become so cluttered with glitz and polish and busy schedules and harried obligations/responsibilities (all of which we conveniently categorize as “church leadership”) that any notions of actual humbling and quieting ourselves before God are long gone. Due to the pressures of church leadership, I know many church leaders who would say that Sundays are simply not a day of worship for them. Somehow, that seems to me to be problematic in light of the “Terms and Conditions” for worship God gives us all.

I am the chief sinner in this regard. There are plenty of Sundays in my life which are so filled with busy-ness, I can barely see straight. And there are more times than I care to admit when my singing of songs or hymns is on “auto pilot” and my thoughts are far away. And, in terms of reverence, that makes me just another cow or goat that wanders past the barricades at the foot of Mt. Sinai and unwittingly tramples across holy ground with little remembrance of God’s “Terms and Conditions” for those who want to worship Him.

If you have no trouble at all with being as reverent as necessary all the time, then I think I would rather not hear from you today. Not sure I could take that. But if you are like me and have a little trouble from time to time with the “reverence” conditions, maybe we can help each other. I’ll look forward to hearing from you! I’ll prop you up and you can prop me up. What do you say?

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