For a reason I can’t now remember, my Bible Study group got off topic, and began to discuss whether coffee should be allowed into the Sunday Morning worship service. Perhaps you have had that conversation with someone and have either agreed or disagreed. Apart from the discussion of splashed coffee on cloth seats or on the carpet, you might have agreed that the matter should be left entirely to the conscience of the individual. Perhaps, you thought, this is where the conversation ends. Since there is no Biblical mandate regarding such matters, the principle of individual freedom ought to be the governing principle.
As a matter of fact, I have little to say about the issue of coffee, but I have noticed how difficult it is for many of us to concentrate on only one thing. One of the miseries of my existence as a pastor, where those occasions where I was preaching, I sensed the conviction in the room, and at just the inappropriate moment, a cell phone would begin to ring or to signal that a text message had just come in. Indeed, on one moment that I can remember, I once witnessed someone, not receiving a phone call, but actually making a phone call during the message. Needless to say, I stopped, and allowed the person to finish their conversation.
And so, the question of whether to bring coffee into the service pails in comparison to the case of whether we should bring electronic devices into the service. As we all know, we don’t just receive phone calls and texts on our phones. Our phones frequently alert us when a news item is first known, when our favourite team scores in a game, and when a company has just released a new product. Phones connect us to a wide variety of activity. They distract us and alert us. They locate us and they remind us of the appointment that is coming due in an hour. But they are always there.
In a recent blog, Trevin Wax quotes Samuel James, making a case for the theater as a place that should allow the phone. James said, “The cinema stands almost alone as an institution of resistance, an assembly where people are taught early and often that it can be a virtue to not know everything that’s going one outside and to lose oneself in something transcendent.” That transcendent thing that James was thinking of, was a movie. I can think of nothing more damning to the life of a Christian, that we do not think of our worship services in terms of greater solemnity.
The purpose of regular communal worship of God is to rest from all other activities and to give ourselves solely, body, soul, spirit and mind, to be attentive before the One from whom angels bow and archangels veil their faces. It is that time when we confess our sins together, and listen to the words of grace, that all those who truly confess their sins find grace through the forgiving grace of the One who is utterly holy. It is a time when prayers are offered. It is a time when songs of truth rise from our lips. It is a time when we hush our voices, when the sacred scriptures are opened and read, and when one is charged to exposit the truth of God’s word. Yes, the sacred word of the living God is being spoken.
I am calling for a sacred fast in our worship services. Is it possible, that for an hour or an hour and a half, that we can so afflict ourselves, that we shut off our electronic media, and allow nothing other than holiness to crowd our thinking?
My prayer, is that we recapture the majesty of worship.