The last two morning of my Benedict devotional have talked about showing up and showing up on time. Benedict is really strict about the monks getting to chapel and meals promptly. This is not just an obsessive/compulsive thing, it is about honoring the community and the commitments we make. When was the last time someone made an excuse about not being where they were suppose to be, OR you made that excuse??
People will often come up to pastors and explain why they have not been in church. (Actually, this does not happen as often as my early days of ministry.) It was if making the excuse made not showing up OK. Yet, if we are not willing to at least show up, how is God going to be able to work any change in us. How can our hearts be penetrated. This is not just about the worship hour, but also our prayer life, and also our attention to God throughout the day.
Of course, showing up is just the first part, being open to the transforming power of the Divine is the big step. Joan Chittester includes this Sufi story.
To a group of disciples whose hearts were set on a pilgrimage, the elder said, “Take this bitter gourd along. Make sure you dip it into all the holy rivers and and bring it into all the holy shrines.” When the disciples returned, the bitter gourd was cooked and served. “Strange,”said the elder slyly after they had tasted it, “the holy water and the shrines have failed to sweeten it.”
The goal of our worship, the goal of our prayer, the goal of our lives is to be changed from the inside out by God’s penetrating power. Sometimes we need to be inconvenienced, to have God’s agenda be at the top of our agenda.
You see, I have been working on my niece’s wedding dress. I love making it with all the details. Yet, as I sew all the pieces of expensive fabric I want her marriage to be the thing that costs the most and has lots and lots of time invested. The wedding dress will be there for just a day, yet we have spent so much money and energy on the pretty outward dress. I truly pray for her and her fiance to spend as much money and energy making their married life as beautiful as her dress will be on her wedding day.