A throng of red and white-clothed spectators surge along the avenue toward the oval stadium looming proudly in the distance. Chugging alabaster clouds scatter intermittent shadows on the collegiate landscape below as a crisp breeze scatters red, gold, and burnished bronze leaves. A mound of leaves heaped on a grassy slope is too much for one supercharged sojourner to leave undisturbed. He discharges himself from his pacific group of friends, sprints up the slope, hurls his body airborne, and pounces in the middle of the lazy leaves. They scatter across the withering grass as leaf dust swirls through the air and triggers sneezes from the offending leaf stomper. His invigorated friends hoot and holler and pump their fists in the air. They’ll do a lot of hooting and hollering and fist pumping—and probably ear piercing name-calling—in the next four to six hours. An excessive amount of it if they’ve indulged in a pre-event warm-up celebration.
Additional spectators join the push from intersecting arrival points and swell the ranks. A cool snap in the air hastens them forward. The crowd’s energy increases as it nears the granite memorial arch and arena, hears the brass notes and thumping percussion rhythm of the beloved fight song; as they smell the sweat dripping from their gladiators’ brows. They hasten to locate designated seats and get a first glance at their favored red and white uniformed contestants warming up on the field below. The air is charged with expectation and energy.
Make no mistake about it, these fanatics are worshiping! Some wear the matching uniforms and numbers of their favorite gladiators. Others are festooned in costumes they wouldn’t be caught dead in on a normal day. Still others boast flamboyant body paint that makes them unrecognizable to their peers. These fans will roar when their players erupt from a special entrance tunnel onto the playing field between blazing fireworks, jeer when the opposing gladiators enter the arena, shriek with joy when one of their gladiators drills an opponent into the unforgiving turf, cavort unabashedly to familiar (and highly orchestrated and frequently practiced) band accompaniment, and even weep and wail when their virile squad of men come up short in victory. (If you’ve never seen the University of Wisconsin football fans shake their keys, do the wave, jump around, or polka to the “Bud” song, you haven’t really lived!)
Sound anything like a Roman arena’s matchup of bone shattering, blood-letting gladiators? It’s actually a more modern, civilized version of the Roman sporting event. Go to nearly any university in the United States on almost any fall Saturday, and you’ll find this scenario played out. It’s college game day! And for hours fans will prepare for the game, drive, bus, or walk to the stadium, enjoy a little (or a lot of) pre-game socializing, sit for four to six hours on a hard bleacher seat to cheer on their team, and then maybe enjoy a post-game wrap-up engagement. Some college kids will devote more time to attending these events and living vicariously through their favored fighters than they’ll spend in classrooms and on studying.
Sound like fun? Oh, it is. It can be exhilarating. And if you want to ramp it up a few more notches, you can get addicted to the professional gladiators—the ones good enough to make it to the “big leagues” after they battled on a college field. The ones who now assemble to clash on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
But what does any of this have to do with faith and religious life? I could go many directions here, but I’ll focus on the biggest one: Worship. Yes, worship. These fans (fanatics) are worshiping. As our pastor Dr. Steve Ingino points out, all of us were created to worship, so we’re going to worship something. And these fans are worshiping their team and individual players. Some of them are devoted to it; their identity is wrapped in it.
Maybe your sport isn’t football, but soccer, or rugby, or some other cherished team sport. It all seems kinds of innocent, until you think about how much time you spend in this kind of worship, compared to the amount of time you spend worshiping the One who is actually worthy of receiving this kind of orchestrated praise. Or maybe it’s a hobby you spend time “worshipping.”
A Matter of Time, and Energy
How much time do you devote or set aside to praising the Creator? An hour? Hour and a half? Sundays only? Maybe Saturday nights? Are you a sold-out fan, or are you a watch-glancer, thinking about your grumbling stomach and where you’ll enjoy lunch. Are you an engaged participator or a bored, detached observer? Do you stay up so late Saturday night that you can’t get out of bed Sunday morning to worship, or go to church and yawn through the service? How much energy do you put into your worship, into allotting time to sing and extol His majesty?
Better, More Satisfying Worship
Here are some things you can do to find out just how much time you’re spending on worship:
1. Keep a notebook and log the number of minutes a day you spend devoted to worshiping the Lord. Do you spend 5 minutes daily on a devotional? That would add up to 35 minutes, if you include a Sunday devotion time.
2. Note what you usually spend your time on during your devotion or worship time—studying God’s word, praying, rejoicing, etc.
3. Note how you pray and worship. When you pray, do you launch right into your own, or others’ prayers requests, or do you follow the prayer template Jesus gave His disciples? What has become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” starts with: “Our Father, which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What is noteworthy in this template is that praying begins with recognition of who God is and where He “resides” and then moves into a declaration of how holy His name is to us. Then it goes into the recognition of His will being the overriding priority in our lives and in the universe.
It’s the mindset we need to have for prayer and worship. While in our desperation, we sometimes omit that and simply get to “Lord, save me!” most of the time we are in a position to get the priorities lined up and focused on.
Where do you need “improvement”?
1. If you’re short on your worship time, look at your schedule and habits to see what you might be able to eliminate or change in your schedule in order to devote more time to praising and worshiping Him.
2. If it’s an energy issue, look at your schedule to see how you can better schedule your time so your energies can be full and focused on worshiping.
3. Ask God to make you sensitive to activities, and others, that draw you away from worship and cause you to compromise that special time with Him.
4. Then take baby steps to improve your worship. I know you’ll be happy you did!
If you’d like to hear a great sermon on the topic of worship, you’ll want to hear Dr. Steve Ingino’s convicting and sometimes hilarious sermon on this subject. Go to this link http://www.cfcpca.org/sermons and listen to the August 14 sermon. If you’re at all familiar with sporting events, you’ll enjoy his brilliant paradoxical metaphor.
Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter. Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer