Monday, April 22, 2013

Preparation Day: 'Go to Church' Or Worship?

Each Saturday evening while my three children slough off a pound of farm dirt from the day's hard play and labor, I begin my routine of preparation for the following Lord's day.  This night-before gathering to meet the next morning's mad dash started when the twins were infants.  With diapers, burp cloths, blankets, loveys, chew toys, an extra set of clothes, bottles, cheerio puffs, and pacifiers (all times two), I quickly learned this preparation made all the difference in whether our family arrived to worship or merely arrived at church.

Experience taught me it wasn't enough just to wake up early.  No matter how early I set the clock, Sunday morning would always exude a tinge of madness and, usually, more than a little chaos.  If milk is spilled, clothes are soiled before breakfast, or something essential is misplaced--this is the day it will happen.
That is why each Saturday before I slip my aching arches beneath the sheets, three sets of small shoes line up across the foot of the treadmill, each with matching shoes and stockings tucked in the toes.  Two crisply ironed shirts, two pairs of pressed dress slacks, and one equally wrinkle-free little lady dress swing back and forth immediately above those foot-covers.

By the back door sit a bag of after-church play clothes for dinner at Grand mama's house as well as a second bag filled with the lesson and necessary craft supplies for my four-year-old Sunday School class.

Without such preparation, I would either arrive at church in a foul mood or would throw up my hands in defeat.

As I've been working through the seven Biblical feasts, I've noticed a similar pattern in what God's chosen people did for many of these annual times of worship.

They prepared.  

In essence, preparation was the key to proper worship.

Consider the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins the day after Passover.  Before its celebration, the Jewish people obeyed the command in Deuteronomy 16:3-4, which required the community to clean their homes of any products containing leaven: "Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days." 

Such an action symbolized God's people separating themselves from sin, literally "removing" sin from their homes and, by extension, from their hearts.  That means any packaged foods in the house containing yeast, baking powder, baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate had to be removed.  Imagine going through all your cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer, and reading all the labels to determine if a leavening agent were in the pre-packaged food.  It's a bit like Spring Cleaning, and we all know how long that can take if done properly.

That's preparation for worship.

Even Jesus, Himself, spoke of the importance of preparation when discussing the Feast of Passover. He instructed Peter to "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover,"  and Peter replied, "Where do you want us to prepare for it?" (Lk. 22:8-9).

Scripture records Jesus giving a series of instructions that concluded with the words, "Make preparations there.”  The disciples then "left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover" (Lk. 22:12-13).

Four times in this short passage, Luke emphasized the preparation necessary for a proper celebration of this Feast of remembrance, this Feast of worship.
Another Feast that emphasizes preparation is the Feast of Trumpets, more commonly known in modern terminology as Rosh Hashanah.  This one-day Feast importantly announces the coming of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) in ten days.  With the blast of the trumpet, the Jewish community begins to prepare their hearts for God's judgment.

As Rabbi Derek Leman says of this Holy Day, "The sins of the nation would be judged for another year on Yom Kippur.  On that day the high priest would bring blood into the holiest place that no one else entered.  And every year the question was the same: Would God receive Israel's offering?  Would He grant mercy and grace another year?...Traditionally the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [The Day of Atonement] is called 'The Ten Days of Awe.'  That week and a half is a time for self-reflection, to repair relationships, and to pray in light of one's own standing before God.  These are days of repentance" (p. 57).

Again, the Feast and Holy Day emphasized preparation for worship.

Do you see a pattern here in God's call for His people to worship?

It wasn't just a "Hey, mark your calendar and show up on X day" kind of event.  Instead, each Feast, each Holy Day was about preparing one's heart (and home, by extension) for worship.

Compare this to our generation.  As a general rule, we don't prepare for worship.  Instead, we waltz in on Sunday morning, expecting to receive God's blessing, to receive an enlightened message from His Word, to feel His Spirit move within......and all without really preparing our hearts for worship.

Worship isn't just about showing up at a certain place and time.  True worship should involve us continually preparing our hearts for meeting with God.

He is holy.  He is worthy of such preparation.

Other Articles in this Jewish Feasts Series:
Reorienting Our Lives: 50 Days From the Cross
Understanding the Jewish-ness of Jesus
The Truth About Passover

Source: Leman, Derek. Feast: Finding Yourself at the Table of Tradition. Nashville: Lifeway P, 2008: p.57.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a great insight, and emphasising on the importance of true worship.