I’m old enough to remember when breaking news didn’t come via the refresh of a Twitter timeline. Often, newsworthy items were delivered from television newsdesks and, as a kid not grasping the weight of those moments, I couldn’t help but feel slightly annoyed as a show or baseball game was interrupted. Within moments, the newscaster would sign off, our parents would scurry to the phone, and we’d be welcomed back to a show, movie, or ballgame “already in progress.”
I always felt as if I’d missed the best parts.
There's a bit of that every Sunday morning for believers — this arrival onto a scene of things already-in-motion. And the parts we're missing are especially mind-blowing. I’m stunned each week when I stand alongside other brothers and sisters to worship God together. I've grown increasingly grateful for things happening in the room, but am ever mindful of worship happening that isn't in our immediate context, or even in our city, state, or nation.
Occasionally my mind wanders to things going on elsewhere – away from the melodies being sung and the words being preached. Herein is my confession, I suppose. But in these moments, I’m not given much to lunch plans and the possibility of an afternoon nap. Instead, I’m struck by the reality that what we’re a part of each week as believers in the western world is a worship gathering not of our own creation, but rather, the next bit in a worship service that’s already in progress.
We’ve arrived on the scene and we’re fashionably late. In fact, when our church family gathers to worship on Sunday mornings in Kansas City, my brothers and sisters on the East Coast are already singing. What’s more, the entire eastern hemisphere is already into their Sunday evening and some are even easing their way into the wee morning hours of a Monday.
How silly of me to feel as if what we bring is all that God is concerned with, as if His mind and heart are actually as Ameri-centric as we’ve thought them into being.
Don’t get me wrong – I know He’s attentive. Why else would the psalmists have begged of Him so often to incline his ear to listen (Ps. 17:6; 31:2; 71:2; 86:1; 88:2; 102:2)? I dare say God even delights in us and what we do (Ps. 149:4). But the reality is, we bring ourselves to a God who’s delight in praise spans the gaps of time and space in ways we cannot fathom. And the choruses and prayers of brothers and sisters in Romania and Greece, in Johannesburg and Mali, hidden away in parts of the Middle East and throughout the rest of the eastern world – all these have been heard intently by God long before our feet hit the bedside floor.
What’s it like to hear the whole world sing your praise? Only God knows (Ps. 66:4-5). Be awed by the fact that He does. And when the pastor or music leader leads you to stand in worship this Sunday, revel in knowing you’re joining a worship gathering already in progress. Reading from across the pond? We're privileged to have you lead the way. What grace it is to sing together.
And this grace is more than welcome. No interruptions here, only glorious disruptions to the plague of self-centeredness that would have us miss out on all God is doing both in our midst and around the world. Praise be to God. He won’t let us miss out on all the best parts.