The first chapel service I attended while in seminary is a favorite memory of mine. My classmates and I filed into the sanctuary after our first morning of tackling New Testament Greek. The organist launched into one of the great hymns of the church, and the gathered body stood to sing. However, I hesitated. After that first class, I did not feel at all sure that I belonged there. My academic talents and spiritual gifts did not measure up to those of my peers. I thought I was kidding myself by even participating in that worship service. I took the posture of a bystander, content to let the “real” students and future ministers perform the tasks of worship.
As the voices of the congregation rose to the familiar tune, I became aware of the two people seated next to me. One had a pure, beautiful, and trained voice. The other person was . . . well, not nearly as talented. His gift lay in areas other than singing! However, that did not stop him from offering his best. He lifted his song every bit as loudly and confidently as our more polished colleague. After listening to a few verses of his singing, I shrugged my shoulders and joined in with everything I had.
The singer of Psalm 145 would have approved. He suggests that worship and praise of God is not limited to the professionals. God reigns over all people and all things. Therefore, every person and every thing finds its destiny in praising God. Oh, we need leaders, those who possess talents and gifts to help us. But in the end, praise and worship involves us all. In worship, God is the only audience—and God expects our participation, not perfection. Worship is not for bystanders. This God is not a God of the few. God is Lord of all. That means we all have places in the choir.
Loving God, accept my offering of thanks and praise as I lift my voice in song. I give you all that I am. Amen.
The rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple became a test of God’s promise. The prophetic word of Haggai insists on courage and labor, reminding the people that God’s Spirit is already present among them and points toward the future. In Second Thessalonians, some Christians have grown extremely agitated by claims that the “day of the Lord” has already come. The passage recalls what Jesus and God have already accomplished and insists that God’s future may also be trusted. Jesus’ response to the Sadducees confutes them, not merely by its cleverness (their question also is clever) but by its truth. The eschatological future cannot be understood simply as an extension of the present, except in one profound sense: God is Lord both of the present and of the future. This profound truth demands the praise to which Psalm 145 calls all creatures.
• Read Haggai 1:15b–2:9. The people return home from exile—but home has changed. When have you returned “home” to a different setting than the one you left? How did you feel the changes?
• Read Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21. How fully do you participate in worship? In what areas are you more reserved?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. The phrase “shaken in mind” may be better translated as “shaken out of mind,” implying great distress. What basics and foundation do you return to when you are “shaken out of mind”?
• Read Luke 20:27-38. The Sadducees miss the core of who Jesus is. When has an “old” religious mind-set blocked your ability to see and hear a “new thing”?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.