Not a Regular Tuesday
Off script in the middle of a worship service is usually a scary moment for a chaplain. We make plans and run sheets to ensure the media team, speakers, the worship team and all other participants are on the same page. Yet, Tuesday morning at Week of Prayer was the type of off script moment for which chaplains and pastors alike pray. The moment was the off script that provides the “why” behind every long hour, planning meeting, and ministry function. This was the moment where God showed up to embrace his people when they reached out for Him.
We often pray for the Holy Spirit to be in our midst when we gather. It is the well-intentioned prayer that seeks God’s blessing for make the solemn gathering a sacred assembly. Yet, I’ve recently learned to pray for God to open my eyes for where He is already at work. The reality is that God has been long at work in places, in hearts, in lives, and situations long before you or I ever arrived. Like Gehazi, in 2 Kings 6, the prayer that we often need to pray is, “God open our eyes to where you are already at work.”
This Tuesday, the prayer was answered with “I’m here look around and follow my leading.”
Pioneer’s very own Pastor Taurus Montgomery, our week of prayer speaker, had been praying for his eyes to be opened and so when God said, “Look around.” Pastor Taurus did.
No pretense. No planned actions. The moment he came to the front, you could see the spiritual wrestling happening in his heart as we felt the weight of God’s presence calling to do something different. There would be no Week of Prayer sermon, only a call to repentance.
Pastor Taurus spoke and the words came out, “If you’re not living the life that you know you should, come forward to surrender to Jesus.”
The students came down. At first in small groups then, in large groups. The mass of individuals all moved by conviction that this was their moment to listen to God’s leading.
It was a beautiful sight to behold. The Center for Faith Engagement team, Pioneer Pastors, Department of Religion Professors and other spiritual leaders were called forward to lay hands on the large group in the front. And, for the next twenty minutes, we prayed. We prayed as a packed sanctuary pressed in together by the presence of God. We prayed as a group of people recognizing that when God shows up our only response is to worship. We prayed because God had reminded us, “Here I am. Open your eyes to see what I have already been doing in these students’ lives.”
God is active in places, in lives, in ministries, in plans long before you or I are ever involved. In the moment of prayer, I thought of the words of Amos in Amos 5:
21 “I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24 NLT)
God has been seeking the hearts of his people. He’s been seeking to transform lives to live out justice and righteousness. We hold worship services, we plan programs and, make no mistake, these are good things. They are the avenues and venues in which we collectively praise and worship our Creator. Yet, even these programs are worthless if hearts and lives never experience life altering transformation. God has always cared more for how people live and worship after the sacred assembly than the songs sung, or praises given during the service. Life altering transformation as described in Amos’ context was societal transformation in which the oppression was eliminated, truth was spoken openly, exploitation was condemned, and God was lifted high in every circle.
If repentance remains at the level of public proclamations and never reaches our lives – it becomes the very showy pretense and hypocritic religious festival that God detests. So, today, as God calls you to a greater sense of repentance, how are you being led to affect God-inspired difference in your community? What business practices are you being called to change? What lifestyle are you called to give up? What longstanding wrongs are you called to make right with the ones you’ve mistreated? What mighty flood of justice and endless river of righteous living is God looking to see in your life?