God kicked my butt today. Actually, the butt-kicking started yesterday as a series of tech problems halted my plans – plans that I thought were brilliant and would be joyfully received by the worshiping community. But when our ways are not God’s ways, well, we are not going to win that battle. You see, up to this point I had been live streaming worship on YouTube from my living room but it dawned on me this past week that I could use the church’s video camera that we use to video record my sermons,. I could record a service on Saturday from the sanctuary, instead of my living room, and then upload it on Sunday. I felt this would be more worshipful – to be where we always held worship. People would be excited and that made me happy. So that was the plan. It would be great.
Take one: So, I went to the church building on Saturday afternoon to record a worship service. I set up the chancel area and positioned the video camera. The sermon was done, and my worship notes were ready. I put on my alb, stole and pectoral cross. I knew exactly what I was going to do and what I was going to say. Lights, action, camera – and off I went. Everything went great. I thought I had hit it out of the park until I went to stop the camera. When I hit the record button again to stop the recording, the counter started – as if I was just turning it on. In panic, I hit the button again, pulled out the memory card and ran to my office to upload the video. No video. The worship did not get recorded. The camera said the card was full but there should have been plenty of room. I got a little frustrated, but I quickly settled down and took this as God’s sign that I should do this in the morning.
Take two: Sunday morning came, and I got up at my usual time. I went through my usual routine and then drove to the church building. I got set up again – lighting candles, making sure my notes were ready, my microphone pack was turned on and I got dressed in my worship garb. Lights, action camera – again. I led worship and everything went great. Another homerun – or so I thought. I went to my office to upload the video from a card that was empty when I started. But when I open the card directory there were three files. “That doesn’t make sense.” I thought. Apparently, the worship service stopped and started a couple times giving me separate three files. Grrr… Strike two on the recording. Resigning myself to “settle” for a live stream, I packed up my stuff and rushed home – praying along the way. “Why God, why? I am supposed to have a worship service ready to go for people this morning.” After some more praying and then some listening, I finally heard what God was saying, “Worship is not an event to watch.” All weekend I felt something was off about me recording a worship service, but I thought it was just nerves about how everything would turn out. Apparently, the uneasiness I felt was God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Don’t do this.”
Take three: With a big smile – as I realized the lesson God had just taught me – I prepared my living room for a live stream of worship – no frustration, no anger, just thankfulness. How could I have been so vain to think I could choreograph a worship service production for people to watch later and then call it good and God glorifying. After getting set up, I prayed some more and just listened. I tossed away the bulletin and just led worship – I don’t think the church in Acts had a worship bulletin. And you know something, the Holy Spirit took over and HE hit it out of the park – Grand Slam!
I wish God had given me a clear Post-it note on my computer or something, but some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. When worship is Spirit-led in the moment, God is glorified. All of man’s efforts to produce something that is too scripted, runs the risk of self-glorification. That is what happened to me. In John 4, Jesus said that the Father is looking for people to worship Him in Spirit and truth. Yes, that is worship and that is what finally happened this morning. Thank You, God, for teaching me that lesson. To God be all glory, honor, praise — and worship — through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.