Janet and I attend church on a weekly basis. We have for many, many years now. But we have never been big on mid-week services. However, for the past year or so, our church has been having periodic mid-week opportunities, called Illuminate, that are small gatherings of worshippers that include times of music interspersed with periods of reflection and prayer. There is no sermon – just musical worship – and space to commune with God.
In fact, based on a recommendation, we decided to give it a try last night for the first time. It was an intimate gathering – there couldn’t have been more than thirty or forty people in attendance. And it was set in the round – the musicians in between people who were worshipping. It was the first time that Janet and I have been in that sort of environment since we started attending this church.
I have to admit that I found the entire experience cathartic. It was wonderful to just be present in the moment. No message or sermon to listen to, just letting the music wash over us and then basking in the sounds of silence between the various musical offerings.
The entire experience was orchestrated to include portions of the evening that were dedicated to introspection and personal interaction with God. In many ways it felt like the longer we were there, the more we were distanced from the trials and tribulations of the everyday world and we felt transported to a place of peace, tranquility and communion with the Lord.
Most of the time, in situations like this, people pray to the Lord, or listen and react to things they receive from the Lord. But last night was different – it was more like a guided journey in to a deeper experience with God.
The various songs set the mood and the periods of reflection and silence drew us deeper into more of a conversation with God. It seemed like a true interaction – not the one sided “conversations” that so many people are used to having during times of prayer and silence.
We even had small notebooks and pencils to jot down thoughts or phrases that crossed our minds during our times of introspection. You could stand if you wanted to stand, sit if you wanted to sit, pray alone, with a partner or even in groups…. move the chairs, change seats, whatever you needed to do to respond to the moment in worship. It was quite an eye opening experience to say the least. And one that both Janet and I were impressed with.
Make no mistake – it was genuine, biblical and authentic. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the psalms where the writers cry out to God and write highly emotional stanzas pouring out their hearts to the Lord of the universe.
Tonight’s verse is the foundational biblical reference that was used last night throughout our time together. In fact, the focus of this particular psalm is the act of worship, which is certainly appropriate given the forum that we were in.
The psalmist, quite possibly King David, tells us, in Psalm 118:19-29, “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
My encouragement this evening is that God desires to be in communion with us. As we become more mature in our faith and more like Jesus, we should expect that our conversations with Jesus become more intimate and peaceful. My prayer is that we will all experience the peace of knowing Jesus on a personal basis and that we will all experience the quite, peaceful, interludes that help rejuvenate our faith. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…