“When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. He was terrified and thought, This sacred place is awesome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven.”
Genesis 28:16, 17 (Common English Bible)
Early in my relationship with my wife I learned she liked yellow roses more than any other color. I also learned that she doesn’t much care for red roses. Whenever I am shopping at Publix I pass the floral department to see if they have yellow roses. If they do, and they are particularly beautiful, I purchase a dozen for my wife. I have done this now for thirty-three years. It isn’t a burden. I delight in making this thoughtful purchase because it brings delight to my wife. It would be a burden if I found that I couldn’t afford to purchase roses for her. And I would stop making this purchase if she ever tired of receiving them.
Worship is paying attention to God. Naturally, as a pastor, many Sundays I am in the pulpit – I am at work. But, when I have a Sunday off, I am in worship somewhere. I go to worship not because I feel some professional obligation. Nor do I worship hoping to enjoy some inspirational music or hear a helpful sermon, though both are welcomed. I go to worship to pay attention to God. Paying attention to God causes me delight because I know it delights God. God created man and woman for relationship with one another and with God and all of scripture is one long narrative of God pursuing that relationship. As the purchase of yellow roses brings mutual delight for my wife and me, worship brings the same mutual delight for God and me.
During this pandemic, in person worship is suspended to protect the health and well being of the congregation. This is no different than persons in the Bible who suffer from a skin disease being required to self isolate from the faith community until a priest declares them healed. Yet, people miss in person worship. I get that. So do I. I miss the community, the personal engagement, the sharing deeply in people’s lives before and after the worship service. Yet, First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach never suspended worship. Through live stream technology, worship remains available each week. What remains is the opportunity to pay attention to God – to cause God delight and to experience delight as a result.
Here in Genesis, Jacob wakes from his sleep and realizes that God is present. His experience is that he was “terrified” which must not be confused with how that word is often used today. Jacob’s experience might better be described as one of astonishment and awe. Simply, Jacob experienced delight in the presence of God and details the experience as “awesome.” There may be times when worship becomes routine and rituals are simply repeated week after week. But we continue the routine because, in paying attention to God, we do not want to miss those occasions when, like Jacob, a most adventurous encounter occurs that results in mutual delight.