“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 Once upon a time, a monastery stood in a mountain pass alongside a rarely traveled road. The monks who inhabited the monastery had very little contact with the outside world. Still, they were quite fulfilled in their life together. Like most monks their days were filled with work and prayer, and of course the keeping of the appointed times of the day for worship. Now, these monks shared an abundance of skills among them, but musical talent was not one of them. That never seemed to inhibit the joy and genuineness of their worship, though, as they would unabashedly sing the Psalter, even if it was off-key. Upon retiring each night, the Abbott of the monastery would kneel by his bedside in prayer and ask God the same question. “Lord, was our worship pleasing to you today?” And every night he would receive the same answer. “It was beautiful.” One stormy night, the usual routine of the monastery was interrupted by a knocking at the door. A group of travelling troubadours had had the misfortune of being caught in the storm without any shelter. The monks, who rarely had visitors, eagerly invited the musicians in for a good meal and dry beds for the night. During the monk’s worship they chanted the hymns in their typical off-key fashion. Their guests quickly seized the opportunity to repay the hospitality of their hosts by joining in with their instruments and voices. The music sounded so much better than it ever had, that one by one, the monks stopped singing and listened in awe. That evening, the Abbott asked the question he always did. “Lord, was our worship pleasing to you?” This time, God answered, “What worship?” This story challenges the ways that the “worth” of worship is often judged solely according to the quality of the music, the oratory of the pastor, or the splendor of the sanctuary. However, too much emphasis on the aesthetics of worship can overlook the metrics that matter most to God. Does worship usher a person into the presence of God? Are worshippers’ relationship to Jesus deepened by what they experience? Is the Holy Spirit given space to inspire and transform lives? The worship of God should call forth the best that we have to give, but worship is more than a performance for the senses. May the most important question we ask ourselves about our worship not be “Was it pleasing to the crowd?” but “Was it pleasing to God?”

Grace and Peace