Something we utterly treasure, living in Europe, are mealtimes with other families and guests in our home. When sharing a meal with another family, there’s no often no rushing off to games or telly. There’s a heightened sense of lingering in each other’s presence. Dinner can begin at 6pm and last until 10pm.
After the meal and pudding (dessert is called pudding, even if it’s not what Americans think of as pudding), often we relax around the table, or in the lounge (living room) or in the back garden (yard) over teas and coffees and extended conversation. Whether it be entertainment or politics, hearty laughter or serious untwining of difficult topics, there is a delight simply in being together.
It’s no wonder significant events in the Bible, including profound teachings by our Lord, and His last supper happen over a meal.
Do we enjoy this sense of lingering in God’s presence in corporate worship?
As we begin coming back together as church perhaps we should wipe the service order template clean and examine what would help us most honour and glorify Christ recognising that we are also seeking to be in His presence together.
Are we used to cramming in so many elements that we don’t pause to listen; that we don’t take time to dwell?
For churches with multiple services creating space becomes a challenge, but I think it’s a challenge worth honestly praying and struggling through.
What is best may not always be whats most convenient, but may end up being more spiritually formative.
I ask this not as a mystic seeking 20 minutes of silence for a vision or an epiphany (or unbiblically ‘waiting for the Lord to show up’), but as one who, after tender moments in song, longs to spend even 20 seconds in silent reflection. I also am not suggesting we repeat a song’s chorus a thousand times as a mantra to whip up spiritual goosebumps.
Before we dive headlong into prayers, do we pause and encourage the congregation to silently praise God for his individual mercies, graces, and kindnesses to us over the past week? When we come to the Lord’s Table we can be well intentioned in “searching our hearts” and “confession”, but what if we took 2 full minutes asking the Lord to search us and ask Him to reveal our overlooked or hidden sins?
This all requires space and time.
Space in planning the service order to let our souls breathe.
And purposefully planning in reflection time.
Let’s not cram so many ‘good things’ into our service that we neglect the ‘best’ thing. If our services become so tightly scripted, will we rush past God? Let’s not be afraid to allow the Spirit of God to speak in the silence. (1 Kings 19:12)
What if during these moments of confession revival broke out? Would we even notice it beginning? Would we quickly curtail it so the humorous, slapstick video announcement still plays? Are we more concerned with ending ‘on time’ than the service running over even by 5 minutes?
Let’s delight in the Lord’s presence as a gathered community.
Let’s make time – plan in time – to listen. To dwell. To savour.
To dine with Him and His Bride at the table of His Word and Spirit, lest He should come knocking and emploring,
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
– Jesus, in the letter to the Laocidean believers
in the book of Revelation (3:20)