It took a good ten minutes of wandering through the weeds and brushing blades of brown grass off grave markers sunk down deep in the dirt to uncover her name again: Zantippie Dunlavey.
Long ago, my six year old cousin led me through our church cemetery, past the iron fence, over near the tree line to proudly proclaim this grave as the final resting place of our great-great grandmother. Of course we never knew Zantippie but as a kid I remember feeling a special honor and connection to that stone almost like it cemented my place of belonging in that congregation.
But time dulled, rather than sharpened the recollection and after years of being focused more inside the church rather than outside, I forgot she was there. My memory sufficiently jogged by an ancestry.com search as I pieced together my dad’s family history, I realized that several more long forgotten relatives resided under those ancient oaks in our church yard.
For 36 years I’ve attended the same brick church on the lush green hill. The parking lot’s gone from gravel to asphalt, a new fellowship building was erected, the picnic area abandoned, the membership ebbed, flowed, aged and changed. I’ve seen pastors come and go, the color of the choir robes and walls progress.
And I wondered, in my ancestor’s time, what color was the carpet in the sanctuary? (oh wait there probably wasn’t any…) Was there a piano? Did the organ exist? Were folks fretting over the ‘new’ music of their age which today would be the ‘old’ standards of ours? Was the old faded blue hymnal, which resides on my bookshelf now with a missing spine, a bright robin’s egg blue or was it more royal?
As the transformations continue, one thing remains the same: God. And whether our relatives inhabit the cemetery of our chosen house of worship or not, we all can be buried and live again in Him.
But between their labor and chores, the wash and the worry did they struggle like us with the workings of worship?
I’m willing to bet they did.
We’re quick to forget the way to worship and instead wander around in the weeds turning the map so the arrows point more to us and less to Him.
We honor the past too much.
We don’t honor the past enough.
Phillip Yancey noted in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, “Jesus was not boring or predictable…” and I think that maybe it’s ok when our worship doesn’t follow suit.
Through stepping back in time, I’ve uncovered some timeless lessons.
We all want the best for our worship. To feel connection. To have things flow and be pleasing. These are all great intentions, but maybe that’s where our wants wreck our worship…
The only proper goal of life is that we manifest the Son of God and when this occurs all of our dictating of our demands to God disappears. ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
And I find more good goals to go after in Psalm 96 and 63: The longing for God, fixing of eyes, lifting of hands, and singing of praises with joy. Christian joy- the way in which I think God intends us to approach any act of worship – is defined as, “A good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the World.”
Don’t try to go back in time, go back to the bible. ~Anne Ortlund, Disciplines of the Home
There is beauty in all of God’s ways if we purpose- not just with our eyes, but in our hearts – to recognize and welcome it there. Worship isn’t what we get from God after all but what we give to Him.
Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice… this is truly the way to worship him. ~Romans 12:1
So I offer you a song – even if the hair is different than what Great-great Grandma Zantippie would have preferred, the message still rings true.
Our worship is changed when our hearts are changed. ~Branon Dempsey, Liftupyourday.com
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