“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went…When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume…she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.” – Luke 7:36-38
Every Friday morning I get together with a couple of other pastors in my town for coffee and conversation. One is a Word of Faith pastor, the other is a Quaker pastor, and sometimes a youth pastor from a Baptist church shows up. I’m still badgering the Nazarene pastor to join us, but it’s his day off and a seven am meeting is tough for most pastors to rise for, especially on their day off.
At our last meeting, we were talking about the difficulty of leading people in praise and worship. Some Sunday’s are just amazing. People are lifting their voices and their hearts, they seem to want to linger in the presence of God, and you can sense a special presence of God in the sanctuary.
Other Sunday’s make you wonder why you even got out of bed. Everything seems to fall flat, few people seem interested, and we’re counting the minutes until the singing is over and we can move onto something else.
As we mulled over this strange phenomenon, I recalled the story about the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of perfume and her tears. She heard that Jesus was going to be at Simon the Pharisee’s house, and she went there with one purpose in mind: anoint the Savior of her soul.
What intrigues me about this scene is that Simon is oblivious to the important presence of Jesus. Although he invited Jesus into his house, he proceeded to ignore Him, forgoing the usual courtesies granted a guest (Luke 7:44-46).
Now we have Jesus present in a house with two opposing reactions. One person came into the house prepared to worship, while the other was prepared to ignore their guest. I think the same thing happens in most churches every Sunday, and it may explain the different reactions we have to the worship that takes place.
Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” This means before we even arrive in the church parking lot, we are preparing ourselves to enter into the presence of God and our fellow worshipers with thanksgiving and praise. It DOES NOT mean we stare down the worship leader and challenge him or her to bring us into the presence of God with an inspirational rendition of our most favorite song. Entering into the presence of God through worship is up to me, not the worship team.
This is what the weeping woman with the aroma of alabaster and tears is teaching me. She entered into the presence of Jesus and, in spite of the staring eyes and judgmental heart of the self-righteous religious in her midst, she simply worshiped. She lost herself in the moment, because at that moment the only two people in the room were her and Jesus.
I think that some days, most of the people who come to church come in wanting to worship God, and you can tell it from the warm and inviting atmosphere that is created. Other days, most of us are just going through the motions.
So, the next time you attend your place of worship, I encourage you to make up your mind to encounter Jesus. Begin your praises before you get to the parking lot. Ignore any religious Pharisees who are in the room and focus only on Jesus, who has come to encourage your worship. Next, share with others how this change has made a difference in the way you worship and sense the presence of God. Then, the next time your pastor meets with his friends, the topic won’t be how to engage the congregation in worship, but how God showed up and astounded us all.