The Goldilocks Worshipper

Our church is currently studying the topic of spiritual disciplines. One of the spiritual disciplines we have studied is the act of worship. As a worship pastor, I admit that there seems to be a little bit of a dichotomy present within the combination of the words “discipline” and “worship”.

Discipline implies obedience, yes. But it also implies deliberate training, concentrated control, and corrective punishment. I tend to think upon worship as an outflow of devotion; an action and behavior that is naturally compelled by strong emotion and understanding…not an act of duty or behavior of strategic discipline. However, as I reflected upon Pastor Dan’s sermon on the matter of worship and considered the broader scope of the topic, a childhood story came to mind.

We’re all familiar with Goldilocks and the three bears. A little girl enters the empty home of a stranger. She begins to seek comfort and hospitality without any thought of the absence of an invitation. She finds the dinner table set for a family of three. She decides she’s hungry and begins to partake in a meal that was not prepared for her.

Driven by her own appetite, she finds one bowl of porridge to be too hot, one bowl of porridge to be too cold, and the final bowl of porridge to be just right. Satisfied, she begins to explore the home. During her exploration she finds items of comfort and rest; chairs and beds. Sampling them all in pursuit of personal comfort, she finds each item to be either too big, too small, too hard, too soft, or just right. You know the rest.

I have served the local church for 27 years as a pastor of worship. It is striking to me how very much like Goldilocks the members of a church can be when it comes to our time of gathering together for worship. Occasionally receiving congregational feedback, I have been told things such as, “The music is too loud.”, “The music is too soft.”, “The music is too new.”, “The music is too old.”, “The music is too short.”, “The music is too long.”, “The notes are too high.”, “The notes are too low.”, “I can’t hear the guitars.”, “I can’t hear the piano.”, “I can’t hear my wife sing.” and yes, “The music was good today.” I’ve heard many more things about the worship service, too, but I believe you take my point with the provided list.

It is true that the self-centered ego of our human nature is our most practiced and trained trait. Therefore, I am more disciplined in the knowledge of what I want and what I like than I am in any other body of knowledge. As I go about a day’s living, I am more likely to take abundantly more pleasure in the things that are “just right” for me as opposed to thinking of the pleasure of another.

Driving to and fro, it is my destination that is the most important among all the other drivers. Pushing my cart towards the check out, it is my time that is the most valuable among all the other shoppers. Searching through radio stations and bookshelves, clothing racks and refrigerated cases, it is my interests that are worthy of perusal while everything else is simply a nuisance or a bland mystery. Additionally, when entering the doors of my church, it is my own life that I unconsciously believe that God is the most aware of…and it is our own lives that are securely at the center of our thoughts regarding giving, anxiety, anger, love, fear, convenience, desire, and hope.

Unlike Goldilock’s lack of an invitation to enter the home, I am reminded of God’s invitation to us to enter His gates and His courts. Unlike the prepared meal that was not intended for Goldilocks, I am reminded that the LORD has prepared the day and invited us to rejoice and be glad in it. Unlike the chairs and beds not offered to Goldilocks for comfort, I am reminded that Christ will feed us, gather us, lead us, and hold us to His bosom.

Am I to forget that these offered benefits were purchased at a precious price? If I do, I risk the loss of humility, gratitude, hospitality and joy as I take them. I also risk misinterpreting my own worth and diminishing the worth of others and thereby replacing the object of affection with my own appetite for familiar comfort.

Worship should be self-effacing. Like the young lady from the story, we do indeed lack the discipline of the awareness of others. We lack the ambition to prepare something of our own in order that we might have something to offer. And I believe that this discipline of being aware of others and the discipline of preparation are indeed necessary elements in wholistic acts of Christian worship; private or public.

In some versions of the little story, Goldilocks was chased from the home of the bears. In other versions, Goldilocks was eaten by the bears. In either case, the bears were angry to have found their premises and possessions used for selfish reasons.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats
“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause “Come now, let us reason
together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah)

Discipline is, indeed, a requirement of worship. In need of deliberate training, concentrated control, and corrective punishment, I have to wonder if we ever tire of leading lives that leave a cluttered path of empty porridge bowls, used chairs, and unmade beds? If the act of worship is to be an outflow of devotion, we should first train to lives that display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

~ Jason Lanier serves as Worship Pastor at LIFE Fellowship and is also the Co-Founder of A Cause For Tea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>