I’m an up-front kind of girl—of the church that is. Every Sunday my husband, boys and I walk right up to about the second row of the sanctuary and make ourselves at home. Immersed in worship I push the distraction of others behind me and enter into communion with our Lord. We sit so close that one time another church member joked “You keep moving up and you’re going to have to preach the sermon!” I’m comfortable in the front, maybe a little too comfortable.
Worship from the Back Row
Awhile back my husband was asked to serve as a “safety officer” during worship. Every so often, our family would have to move to the back of the church, and I mean the last row so that he could safely observe the congregation in full view. I was not so eager about that part of the commitment. Did you catch the beginning paragraph where I listed all the reasons I love the front row? Did you notice a recurring theme? Me, right? What I wanted, what I felt I needed during worship. Oh, the distractions we would face! My self-absorbed spirit was crushed as I thought of all the visual annoyances I would have to push aside in order to worship. In God’s magnificent providence, he gently turned my sin-filled spirit from one of begrudging a change in scenery, to a beautiful picture of his bride, the church.
As I slid in next to my husband in the last row of the sanctuary my eyes wandered to the people around me. So. Many. People. I had an immense sense of trepidation as to what the next hour of worship would hold. If I could find it this easy to wander my eyes, would my heart and spirit follow? Could I even worship with all this spiritual noise before me? Self-absorbed and truly wanting for God’s grace, I made each minute more about myself. I could not have been more devoid of the welcoming and loving presence of my Savior I was supposed to be worshipping. But instead of chastising me, or worse, leaving me to wallow in self-pity, the Lord graciously painted a portrait of how he sees his sheep in the Son-drenched pasture of worship.
The Bride Worships
I saw a woman struggling with debilitating pain throughout her body break down in tears during the opening call to worship. Another woman from our Bible Study small group noticed and scurried over to put her arm around her, comforting her with a tissue and her own empathetic tears. They clung to one another during the opening hymn, praising the Lord in the midst of tears and pain.
I saw an elderly blind woman move slowly with outstretched cane down the center aisle, between already-crowded rows. Without missing a beat, a gentleman moved from his packed row and whispered what I could only imagine was a word of encouragement that he had a space for her, as he gently assisted her to sit next to him.
I saw a busy toddler, eager to worship yet unaware how, and his exhausted parents deciding how to keep him from running raucous. I saw grandparents swoop in, scoop him up and lift him to see the choir sing their anthem. His eyes lit up in wonder and amazement at the sight and sound.
Altogether, what I really saw was the shining, shimmering bride of Christ. I witnessed the body lift one another up in worship, during worship. My heart was quickly convicted at this undeserving gift the Lord offered. One that I had been all too swift to judge and condemn. In that short hour of worship, the Lord softened my heart towards his people in a new and humbling way.
For so long I foolishly entered worship like a tunnel. I was at one end, the Lord at another, with no one in between. Corporate worship is about joining hands with one another, entering into communion with the Lord together. Paul instructs us in Romans to be harmonious, even in our worship, so “that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(15:6) Our sole ability to worship at the throne of grace is because Jesus bore sin on our behalf and that indeed is a worthy and people-driven celebratory act! At that very moment of crucifixion, he opened the doors of heaven in order to welcome us into communion with our heavenly Father. We worship with one another because we are instructed to do so, and ultimately because it brings glory to God (Rom 15:7).
One day, Christ will return for his bride, the church, where we will gather and worship him for all eternity. How wonderful and full will that heavenly sanctuary be! There will not be a better row, seat, or pew in which to worship the Lord our Savior Jesus Christ than face-to-face.
About the Author:
Julianna Bowman is wife to Ben and mom to Barrett, Bryce, and Henry. She lives with her family, dog, and two cats in the Philadelphia suburbs. In addition to being a full-time mom, she enjoys serving within women’s ministry, the craft of writing, as well as almond milk lattes. Her home church is Proclamation Presbyterian in Bryn Mawr, PA.