II Kings 111
1 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family…5Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: “Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be put to death in the temple of the Lord.” 16So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.17Jehoiada then made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people that they would be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. 18All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars. Then Jehoiada the priest posted guards at the temple of the Lord.
Many of the people involved in the first church I ever served operated under the assumption that attending worship weekly was one of their top priorities. If they were in town, they would be there on Sunday mornings. Even if they had just come home from the hospital a day or two before, they would be there, singing the songs and listening to the sermons. Presumably they understood the essential nature of this activity we call worship. They did not percieve this time focusing attention on God’s presence and on the great story of salvation as “one more option” on the buffet line of life’s activities. Week after week, hour after hour, they showed by their action, by their planning, by their dedication that the worship of God was at the center of their lives.
Truly, I knew many of these faithful attenders quite well, and I will be the first to fess up to the fact that translating the good news of lives made whole in Jesus Christ into Monday at a contentious business meeting, Tuesday during chemotherapy, Friday during a fight with a spouse, or into the few moments during the walk to the car after church let out was sometimes a challenge! Maybe those moments were what kept them coming back; maybe that’s when they knew that their only hope was the grace of God that they could celebrate on Sundays.
Now the new definition of “faithful attender” to worship seems to be once a month. People are much more mobile. Our lives are no longer centered around the town square. Our lives have multiple centers like our offices, fields where our kids play ball, our shopping and entertainment areas, and, yes, sometimes, our places of worship.
What struck me today about reading 2 Kings 11 was one of the “big picture” points that the writer of Kings makes: “Worship is always at the center of what is right or wrong with life!” When the Kings of Judah and Israel center the lives of their communities on the worship of Yahweh, the one true living God, things go well with them. When the Kings begin worshipping themselves in their hunger for power and success or they go worshipping other gods that appeal to them more, bad things happen! There are power struggles in the Kingdom, assassinations, losses in battle, death, hunger, broken relationships, etc. The point seems to be “when worship goes wrong, everything goes wrong.”
This is a great lesson for our “come when I feel like it” Christians in 21st century America. Have we lost our respect for the God of the universe who has given himself for our salvation? In our state of constant distraction have we forgotten how to be committed to the most important relationship of our lives from now to eternity, our relationship with God? And deep down inside, don’t we long for a center to our lives that grounds us, clarifies our perspective, and directs us spend the lives we are given on the most important things? We long for God to be the center, yet we struggle to toss the anchor to God in worship.
Worship is not “one more thing” on our list of things to do. It is “The” thing that makes everything else make sense. In response to the woman at the well who asked, “Where do you get that living water?,” Jesus replied, “…those who drink of the water I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Drink deeply in worship, everyone, and be full!