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The Chair and the Pew

There's a chair up on the stage of the sanctuary behind the pulpit. Sometimes we have a few up there, sometimes just the one. When I come into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, I walk down the aisle, usually shake an usher's hand, bound up the steps and sit in that chair up there until the prelude ends and it's time to start with the welcome and announcements. When I first started as pastor, that chair felt a little uncomfortable. I wondered why I was sitting up there just waiting to start leading worship. Over the last few years I've learned to embrace it. Because those few moments sitting up in that chair is an opportunity to prepare my own heart to lead worship. In that time I often look around at the faces in the congregation, silently praying for you all. As I do, I am reminded of the many different experiences our fellow worshipers face. I know she's going through a hard time right now. They just got back from their honeymoon. That family is grieving. I imagine that person has the weight of the world on his/her shoulders. Someone is missing from their usual spot this week. That's a new face I haven't seen before. The chair has become a place where I pastor through prayer as I prepare to get in the pulpit.

 

Last Sunday I had a change of scenery. Eric got to preach and lead the worship service--an important step for him in his seminary journey! Because I had the utmost faith God would speak through him, I walked down the aisle and actually sat with my family in the pew. I was surprised by how unusual it felt. Maybe that was because my children in the pew made such a big deal out of it--Daddy doesn't usually get to do this for the whole service! But it also felt really renewing. I heard the words of the text in a much different way than I usually do. I got to soak in what was spoken. I got to sing without thinking of what's next in the worship order. Most of all, I was reminded what it's like to not only be the pastor, but a fellow worshiper. Now I certainly try to treat every worship service truly as an act of worship, but it's quite different when I have no other responsibilities than to simply be in the presence of God.

 

Lots of us have responsibilities on Sundays, during or after our worship services. Many of us have a lot on our minds from our busy weeks and our never-ending to-do lists. However, I hope we all remember the sacred blessing of gathering as the people of God to worship the Lord our God. I hope we can sing with hearts full of wonder and awe of the goodness of God. I hope we can pray with sincerity in our hearts. I hope we can soak in the Word of God like parched sponges desperate for living water. The worship service is a holy time where the presence of God is especially evident. Not because of all the things we do for God, but because God in his grace invites us to be with him and his people. So whether in the chair, in the pew, in the pulpit--wherever we are when God calls us to worship--let us remember God's grace and let him renew our souls.

 

Psalm 23:1-3a - "The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul."

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