July 19, 2019
by Laura R. Rasor
Pastor of Broadway UMC
Smoky Mountain District
I was driving the church van to pick up folks for the service I was leading for the homeless community. I was not in a very good mood. I was driving the van because one of the volunteers had cancelled at the last minute. It had been a busy week, and I hadn’t had much time to plan the service. I needed every moment available to work on the sermon and the songs but, alas, I had to drive the van.
A woman named Susan (not her real name) jumped up into the passenger seat and began rambling. She asked me how I was, but before I even had a chance to answer, she began telling me about her cat and the flowers she had seen and the number of people at the shelter and her cousin’s horse and her favorite television show. I felt my irritation grow. I came very close to stopping the van, getting out and running away.
When we finally arrived at the church, Susan asked if she could sing a solo. I could not imagine how that would go, so I told her that we already had all of the music planned (that was a lie) and that we would have to see how things went.
We made it through most of the service and came to the prayer time. As I invited everyone to share their own prayers and needs, Susan chimed in, “God, please help me when I get out of my mind.” Her words hit me hard. Here I was so focused on my plans for worship that I had lost sight of what was really important.
After the prayer was over, I said to the community, “Tonight we have a special treat. Susan is going to sing a solo.” Susan beamed as she came to the front and sang the song she had selected, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
As her words sank deep into my heart, I knew that it was I who was the wretch and that it was Susan who had been a source of grace to help me to see.
How do you worship God? Most of the time we focus on what happens during Sunday morning services. Did I like the music? Did I know the songs? Was the organ too loud? Did the sermon keep me interested? Did the preacher pray for what I think is important? Did we get done in time to beat the Baptists to lunch?
The prophet Amos reminds us that God doesn’t want to hear our songs unless they move us to act with justice and righteousness. Our worship means nothing if it does not lead us to love and serve others.
Today is not Sunday. You’re probably not going to a worship service at your church today. Whether today is a worship day or not, God is paying attention to how you bring honor and praise by loving and serving others. How can you show that you love God today?
Prayer: God, forgive me when I get so caught up in my own plans and practices that I fail to see you in my neighbor. Help me to worship you not just with my songs and with my prayers but with my heart and with my actions. Show me how I can be an instrument of your amazing grace today. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.