A stranger walked into the church building on a Sunday morning at ten o’clock. He noticed that the signboard read, “Friday bible class 8.00 p.m., Sunday bible class 9.15 a.m., worship, 10.30 a.m.” While walking in, he passed by two men in the car porch busy talking about the stock market. They nodded and smiled at him and gestured him towards the main entrance, but continued to talk among themselves. He walked into the auditorium where a bible class was in session. He took a corner seat at the back row and sat down quietly. The auditorium was sparsely populated with only a few rows occupied.
The bible class ended about twenty minutes later and people started to get up and greet each other. A few people came to greet him. More people came into the auditorium. He found out later that some women and children had just joined them from their Sunday School classes but some had only just arrived from home. Everybody seemed to be talking at once. They looked like a happy bunch of people.
Soon, the song leader started to lead songs. The stranger had to go to the restroom and passed by the kitchen on the way. Some children were taking their breakfast in the kitchen and a few adults were making drinks and munching on biscuits. Ten minutes later (he had a bad tummy), when the stranger passed by the kitchen again, they were still eating and chatting away leisurely.
His earlier seat had been taken, so he took an empty seat somewhere in the middle of the auditorium. He joined in the singing, enjoying the harmony of the acapella singing. When the preacher took the rostrum, he settled down to listened to the sermon. Five minutes into it, his attention was distracted by a group of children in a corner. They were crouched on the floor, some writing and drawing, some playing with toys. Occasionally, one or two would get up, then sit down again. Though they weren’t too loud, he found himself distracted by them.
Then his tummy rumbled, he had to go to the washroom again. He took the nearest exit which was the main entrance. Walking towards the toilet, he was surprised to see a few children playing in the compound outside. The thought crossed his mind that if bad hats wanted to kidnap the children, this would be the perfect opportunity.
Later the stranger rejoined the service again. From where he sat, he could observe the few rows of people in front of him. Most of them appeared to be paying rapt attention to the preacher but he saw someone nodding off, and a mother was busy playing jigsaw puzzle with her child. After the closing hymn was sung and the prayer said, everyone got up again and started talking to each other. People came up to talk to him.
While talking to various people who came up to shake his hands, the stranger looked around the auditorium. There were hymn books and chorus books lying on the floor. He noticed that the seating wasn’t wooden pews with pockets at the back as found in some churches. These were banquet chairs and due to lack of space, people put their things and hymn books on the floor. But after the service, they didn’t bother to pick them up and they lie in disarray. Where the children had sat, there were sweet wrappers, food crumbs, crumpled paper and pencil shavings on the floor. The scene reminded him of a cinema after a show is over when the floor is littered with rubbish. Then the thought struck him that perhaps this was the scenario because they have a cleaner to clean up after them, just like in the cinemas. He left the church building with mixed feelings.
Brethren, can we recognize ourselves in this story? What if that stranger was God, came down in person to visit us? Would He be pleased with the way we are worshipping Him? Or would He think us lackadaisical? Distracted with worldly cares? Irreverent even? But God doesn’t need to come down in person to look into our hearts. He knows. He is omniscient and omnipresent. We need to remind ourselves and each other that when we come together on the first day of the week, it is to worship God. If we were to have occasion to meet with our country’s king, how would we behave? Won’t we be hushed, awed and respectful to come into his presence? How much more should we be, when we commune with the King of Kings.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24
This is a reprint of an article by sis. Lydia Teh from The Christian Message, February 2005.