*Please review the previous posts Really Enter and Going Up.

Noise. With a desire to enter the presence of God in corporate worship, we are faced with noise and distraction. Wanting to climb the ladder, we get caught up in our expectation of a disruption free worship experience.

How can we have a meaningful worship experience in the midst of distraction?

Psalm 27:4 says:

אַחַת, שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת-יְהוָה–אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ

שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה, כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי

לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם-יְהוָה, וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ

“One thing I ask of the Lord, that will I seek: to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to have a vision of the Lord’s beauty, and to break forth in His Temple.”

We want to ascend higher to experience the depth of prayer and song, to be embraced in the I and Thou; to know and be known. Worship.

We are here. They are here. He is here.

When we are present, tuned in to the life of the congregation, we begin to experience the distractions and noise differently. Rather than taking away from our worship experience, it all becomes a “hallelujah!”

As psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Hallelujah!”

The environment now looks different. The movement, the cough, the crying, the chattering becomes the commotion of praise in the courts of His temple. On the wings of song and life we drift up the ladder effortlessly, higher into the presence and embrace of the Holy Spirit.

We behold the beauty of the Lord in the face of the other, in the chorus of voices, in the melodic cacophony of the improvisation that is human assembly, as we thunder with the heavenly choir: Holy! Holy! Holy!

Worship, my friends, is not found in decorum, but in life: in the breath. It is in the midst of the ensemble of the holy that we are embraced by the dwelling of God all the days of our life, and when that which we seek is truly found.

Be well. Shalom.

Purim – Removing Masks

Shortly after the festival of Purim in 2020, we faced a new reality; rather, our face had a new reality: a government health mandate to cover our face with a mask when in public. Some complied. Some wrestled. Some complied, albeit reluctantly.

While this mandate was connected to a health crisis, it had a greater lesson to teach us. What?

Suddenly we were faceless, unrecognizable, unknown, publicly anonymous. Hidden, yet in the open, as our face, the mirror of our soul was covered.

Smiling? I don’t know. Frowning? I can’t tell. Aghast? How can you tell?

Have you noticed, this past year, just how much we rely on facial cues to tell us what’s happening on the inside of a person?

This is for good reason. The face, as I’ve written previously, is the meeting place of the physical face, and the face of the soul: the outer and the inner.

Face in Hebrew פָנִים/panim is spelled identically to פְּנִים/pinim, meaning inside. Unlike the rest of the human body, the face does not need a covering, as the Lord designed it to shine forth the soul: the inside radiating out.

The festival of Purim, from the book of Esther, recognizes that each of us have masks, or protective coverings that we need to remove in order to shine forth just who He has made us to be. Still, for many of us, these masks developed over time, as we needed to protect ourselves from the harm of social, and sadly, even familial settings.

Masks cover the face; and in the case of Esther, her mask, concealing her identity as a Jew, needed to be removed in order to rescue the Jewish people.

Our masks need to be removed as well; not the temporarily mandated masks, but those protective masks of our own design. The mask masking the soul, protecting the heart, and the inner man. Why?

Now that we recognize just how much we depend on facial cues in social situations, how much more does our soul need to shine out the message of redemption through our faces? The message of the Good News of Messiah.

Purim reminds us that our identity, as His people, cannot remain a secret, cannot be covered, cannot be protected, cannot be hidden away. Aa He shines through us, unobstructed by our protective masks, the enemy is always defeated in the light of His countenance (Num. 6:24-26).

How are these masks removed? Faith in the work of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus (Eph. 6:10).

Be well. Shalom.

Really Enter

You can be in a space, and yet not be there. This is a common issue when it comes to corporate worship. We need to refocus. So often we carry our external concerns into worship space as an unintentional barrier, leading to disconnection; or we bring an impenetrable wall of expectation.

What can we do?

There is a teaching from the Talmud, Berakhot 28b, that is inscribed at the front of some synagogues on the Torah Ark (see picture below):

דע לפני מי אתה עומד

“Know before Whom you stand.”

Rashi comments that knowing before who you stand induces awe and concentration. On the highest level this is speaking of the Lord; but it can also be applied to those we stand among. How so?

Physical. Emotional. Spiritual.

In the congregation:

1. Physical: you are there.

2. Emotional: who is the other there with you?

3. Spiritual: He is there.

This speaks on the level of the soul, and the tripartite nature of men, and it directs away from self-awareness – self-centeredness – to corporate awareness and the Lord’s Presence. When we note the other in the space with us, those known or unknown to us, the refocusing mentioned above takes shape:

We are here. They are here. He is here.

Physically we note our presence in worship space. Emotionally we note the other, and their joys and concerns. Spiritually, we know that He is here, as Yeshua promised to be in our midst as Emmanuel:

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).

Here we stand before heaven and brethren, in awe of the heavenly reality, and the power of redemption witnessed among the saints of God. We can now concentrate, and enter in the dimension of worship, bringing others with us.

What do we do?

When entering the congregation, we must remember that it is one thing to enter the building; being present, however, is quite another.

1. When crossing the threshold recognize the change in space and dimension, between the common space and holy space.

2. Leave expectations before the outer door.

3. Attune to the dynamic of the congregation at the moment of arrival.

4. Enter in.

5. Then take it with you when you go.

6. But leave the bag of expectation where you dropped it, thanks.

I acknowledge this is not easy, especially in this age and season. Yet, when we change our thinking, perspective, and purpose by noting “before whom we stand,” the worship experience is freer, more meaningful, and life transformative because we have praised and worshipped in Spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23).

Be well. Shalom.