A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the land of the Bible
But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. 24 God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”
John 4:23-24 CEB
About the age of 10 I was exposed to some new forms of worship. Me and a friend hopped on a flatbed railroad car and road it to the south end of town. We had heard there was an old-fashioned camp meeting going on in a church down there. Stories were going around about people rolling in the isles, picking up snakes and shouting in loud unknown tongues. Sounded like something I definitely needed to see, but from a distance of course. I hate snakes!
I was raised in a small Protestant denomination called the Church of the Brethren. Our worship services knew nothing of anything like the things we were hearing about. Ours were pretty orderly; sing a few hymns, a pastor led a prayer, some men would come down each isle and take up an offering, and the pastor preached a thoughtful sermon. There was nothing even remotely loud, no one spoke in a different language, and you can bet that if anyone brought a snake to church there would be some screaming and running around going on, but it would all be in a rush to get out of there!
When we were near the church grounds my friend and I hopped off the train and walked toward the church. It was summer, and it was hot. The windows were open so we could hear a lot of commotion going on. We never did go inside – just in case the snake stories were true. We didn’t even peek in the windows. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to spy on someone else’s worship. Our curiosity had been satisfied just hearing what sounded like a lot of rowdiness going on inside; that was definitely a different kind of worship than we what we knew.
I remember that event peeked a curiosity within me about worship styles. I assumed all churches worshiped as the one our family went to. I began asking around among my friends about their worship services, especially about whether they had snakes or not. I had no interest in visiting a church with snakes. Did I mention that I hate snakes!
What I learned over the next ten years or so was that people, even with similar beliefs, worshiped God in many ways. In Jesus encounter with the woman at the well in John 4, He offered her words of life concerning authentic worship of God. She was curious about who was right. The Samaritans like herself worshipped differently form the Jews, though they were of a similar belief. In Jesus’ answer we hear great insight to apply in our own lives.
Jesus didn’t say that her Samaritan worship was all wrong. In fact, he didn’t say His Jewish worship was all right either. What he said was that the most important thing about our worship of God was not the place or style, but rather the content – it must be authentic and truthful. To worship in spirit and truth is to open your heart to God and respond as He leads you. For some that may mean singing with a charismatic spirit in their music. For some it may mean to kneel in amid candle light, softly chanting a prayer. And I suppose for some it may even mean picking up a snake as a test of faith (I’d pray hard about that one before you try it!). But regardless of style, it must be genuine in our spirit that we sense God is leading us as we worship.
In 27 days, we will embark on a journey to the land where Jesus worshipped. We will stop to pray in churches that have stood for almost two thousand years. As we do so, (And for those who follow us on the vlog, don’t be bothered by how different the houses of worship are form your modern American traditions. Allow yourself to step out of time and space and enter in to the spirit and truth of an ancient time among ancient stones and listen for the Spirit of God to speak to you, just as Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. If you will, you will find the true meaning of being a pilgrim.
Day 27 has begun…