Before church

Jeremiah 31:1-6

What should people do before worship? Some people arrive up to thirty minutes early. Do we have expectations of what they should be doing when they get there? And as more people trickle in closer to our start time, what should those people all be doing? A lot of them talk. They visit with others.

Does that bother you?

It bothers some Christians. So much so they often want me to do something about it. There’s been the suggestion to put up signs marking the sanctuary a no-talking space. I could, apparently, put a message in the bulletin or make an announcement during worship. Of course, I also have the sermon time at my disposal for these kinds of things.

We should make time to quietly reflect on our walk with God. You should do that at home or anywhere else the opportunity arises. We, as God’s family, should do that together, too. Yes, gather a bunch of Christians together and ask them to be still and listen. Do that at regularly scheduled worship gatherings or in other meetings.

For the most part, though, when we gather on Sundays, we’re going to talk. Sure, I wish more of us would talk more about the goodness of God than the Cowboys game. But I’m not so sure God can’t draw us together through any conversation.

I’ve been reflecting on a word we read in Jeremiah. After so much about judgment, there is a promise of redemption. As part of that promise, merrymakers take their place. When God rebuilds the people, they will join the merrymakers’ dance. What does that look like? I can only imagine the festivity and excitement. Merrymakers aren’t quiet or downcast.

The hopefulness of the merrymakers does not depend upon the occasion or how we’re feeling. Our dance centers on the goodness of God. How can we keep from being merry together!

So, I say, let the people talk before worship. We’re in the presence of God together. It is a blessing God brought us to one another. Catch up with each other. Pray for each other, too, while you’re at it. Read the morning’s Bible passage out loud for each other. Whatever you do, let your hearts be merry!

Stay blessed…john

Consequences linger

Jeremiah 30:18-24

If you make your bed, you must lie in it. That adage isn’t always true, but true enough times to count on. Do the crime, do the time is another old nugget that reminds us there are ramifications for the things we do. And we get that. We don’t like if people get off too easy. At least, other people.

But something strange happens when we think of God and consequences. Since God casts our sins into the depth of the sea, we assume that means everything goes with it. Well, grace redeems us, frees us and forgives us, but it doesn’t always spare us. Consequences aren’t a part of the grace formula.

When nothing but the blood of Jesus washes away our sin, there are times we get a clean slate to go with it. That is, the trouble, hurt or harm we may have caused is rectified as well. Praise God when that happens because it doesn’t always happen.

There are many more times the consequences of what we’ve done linger. We should understand that’s not judgement from God. And I don’t say that in a negative way. It’s a reality we need to ensure we understand. In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven! But if we expect forgiveness to erase any and all repercussions, you might be greatly disappointed.

Jeremiah 30 has one of the great prophecies-within-a-prophecy. God promises to “restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob.” The sound of joy will make the feeling of thanksgiving so evident. One day things will be so different than they are today.

But there’s still today.

Of course, the today we’re talking about is exile. The people will still face the consequence of their disobedience. They will still suffer. Part of God’s promise is that the city will be rebuilt. You understand the impact of that when you realize it will be destroyed first.

Why doesn’t God just flush away all the real-world consequences of our sin? I’m not sure. Maybe because they often affect other people. Maybe we need to learn to appreciate how much our actions or inactions can burden others, too.

Whatever the reasons, may we continue to trust God through them. And may we take great comfort in knowing God has redeemed us even when the consequences we face linger.

Stay blessed…john

Opening the doors

Psalm 24

If God is the ruler of the world, your approval isn’t necessary. The King of Kings is king of kings whether you’ve submitted or not. Jesus is Lord. It’s not up to you to make it so; only to surrender to that reality or not.

A common thought is Psalm 24 is an act of worship commemorating God’s arrival into Jerusalem. Specifically, this would’ve been when David brought the ark of the covenant. For such a ceremony, the people are to remember the awesomeness of the God they worship. Their proper response to God’s arrival was a cleansing of the hands and heart. They should turn away from what is false and seek the face of God.

To be sure, their actions are an acknowledgement of God’s power and holiness. The people do not make God holy. God is and we adjust ourselves accordingly. 

It’s at this point in the psalm we see a point of mystery within our communion with God. Surely, the Lord does not need permission to dwell in any part of the earth God created. No, but God will not force the divine presence upon us. So, once the people affirm who is the King of glory, what’s left is for the people to open themselves to God’s presence.

Listen to their call: 
Lift up your head, O gates! 
and be lifted up, O ancient doors, 
that the King of glory may come in!

God does not need permission, but will wait for our response.

Now that Christ has come, you are the temple. God’s presence is the adorning feature of your life. God won’t tear down the doors of your heart. It’s your choice to open them. Why would you? Because God is still the King of glory. The holiness of God is still the fullness of God’s goodness. And we still need the Lord to have clean hands and pure hearts.

Stay blessed…john