Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Sing!


Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
                        let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
            Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
                        let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
            For the LORD is a great God,
                        and a great King above all gods.
            In his hand are the depths of the earth;
                        the heights of the mountains are his also.
            The sea is his, for he made it,
                        and his hands formed the dry land.

            Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
                        let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
            For he is our God,
                        and we are the people of his pasture,
                        and the sheep of his hand.
            Today, if you hear his voice,
                        do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
                        as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
            when your fathers put me to the test
                        and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
            For forty years I loathed that generation
                        and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
                        and they have not known my ways.”
            Therefore I swore in my wrath,
                        “They shall not enter my rest.”
 (Psalm 95 ESV)

Psalm 95 is one of 50 psalms that lack authorship.  But it is clear to me who wrote Psalm 95.  It was written by a pastor.  You may say, “But they didn’t have pastors back then.”  Not true.  Though the word we translate as pastor was unknown in Old Testament times, the office of pastor has been laid upon men and women throughout history.   And accepting the call to shepherd God’s people is not optional.  You do it because it is in your being, not because you are told to do it or paid to do it or because you get anything for doing it.  Just as prophets do what they do involuntarily, so pastors find, as Paul says, that necessity is laid upon them. 

Contrary to how the first line looks, the person who wrote this Psalm was not expressing his own personal jubilation.  That comes five Psalms later in the cannon.   Here, he is expressing the pain of his pastor-heart that he has to cajole his people into worship like a lover kneeling over the now-lifeless corpse of his beloved crying, “Speak to me!  Speak to me!  Oh why won’t you speak to me!” 

One of the worst feelings in the world is to want nothing more than to enter into lavish praise and have those around you refuse to go there with you.  Worse than being in a group like that is presiding over a group like that.  To sit on a platform, separated from the people of God and feel the beauty of praise, and also feel the weight – the burden – of not being able to energize praise from the people just across the great divide between you and the first people sitting five rows back because they won’t sit any closer.

“Come!  Oh why won’t you come!  Sing to the Lord!  Please… I beg of you.  Sing to him!  You can’t know what it is like until you do.”

Beloved, there is a joy inside the people of God.  If that joy is unleashed, it will shake great stones.  There is a joy inside the people of God.  When it is unleashed, it shakes the very heart of God.  When’s the last time the person in the pew next to you turned to you and said, “I can’t tell you how grateful I am that God lets me come here!”  When’s the last time you said to your pastor, “I’m so thankful that you lead us into the presence of God week to week!  I don’t know where I’d be if I couldn’t come into his presence.”

He is so amazing!  He made all of this.  Don’t you see it?  Don’t you get it?

Any pastor’s greatest joy in life would be to approach God with the people in such a way that at the very height of worship everyone in the room spontaneously knelt or prostrated before the Lord.  What an awesome and heart-stopping thrill that is.

The reason we know it was a pastor who wrote the Psalm is because of the way it ends.  He really has thrown away any pretense of the “dignity of worship.”  Dignity… Blech!  Oh, the impotence, the dryness, the deadness of most of our “worship.” 

Oh please!  If you hear what he’s saying to you… right now… wherever you are… I know it may seem undignified, but on this one, the Moslems have it right.  Take out your little prayer rug and bow before him.   So what if your co-workers raise an eyebrow and think you dropped a paperclip behind your desk?  So what if your kids ask why you’re lying on the living room floor?  

Bow before him in praise and exaltation and joy and thanksgiving and wonder and merriment and laughter and reverential awe and gratefulness and with tears and silence and shouting and song!  Oh please!  I beg of you!  Sing!

Jon  

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