Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Man with His Hands in His Pockets

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
(Psalm 117)

It was not just my reading for yesterday morning, it was also my doing. I dug out a songbook from a Christian holiday from years back, flicked back to familiar songs and belted out a few numbers flinging my arms in all direction.

This time last week, not this time exactly but a little later in the morning, I went to a worship meeting. My own church family is part of a home church network. We have our main meeting on a Thursday evening. I am a Sunday church lass at my core. I love the Thursday evenings, but I miss Sundays.

The church is a newbie. I often wonder why churches plant new churches in places where there are already similar kinds of churches there already. It feels a little bit like church empire building rather than kingdom building, as if no other church can measure up to their own particular brand or label.

Let’s talk about the man with his hands in his pocket, shall we? It seems my nit-picking gene had placed itself just under my skin. There was a man in the row of seats opposite with his hands in his pockets throughout the time of worship. He might even have been chewing gum. Is this the way anyone approaches a monarch, earthly or not? Hands in pockets? Chewing gum? I thought not!

Many years ago my church then was the Plymouth Brethren. Yes, perhaps the opposite extreme to the charismatic churches I inhabit now. Hands in pockets and chewing gum would not have got you through the door. I think I miss the whole Sunday best dressing up for church. When I first began going to a charismatic type meeting, I continued to wear my Sunday best, and my hat for a while. Some woman took me aside and said that “we don’t do that anymore”. Apparently my dress and my hat were identified as bondage to an old tradition and needed to be cast off. I was desperate to fit in and wore jeans the next meeting.  I was not comfortable with the move. Yes, God loves us the way the way we are, but have the things swung too far in the other direction? Does casual attire also mean a casual approach in worship?

Back to the man with the hands in his pockets, and chewing gum. He was there. Singing, yes – but with his hands in his pockets and chewing gum. My eyes kept straying towards him. I was trying not to get hung up on it – but I was hung up on it. I didn’t know the man. I couldn’t see the state of his heart but presumed him to be less “holy” than me. Ouch! I soothed myself with bland thoughts like “He is in church. He’s not mowing his lawn or washing his car or watching TV” or any of the other things people who don’t go to church do instead.

Imagine a whack across the head! I was born into a Roman Catholic household and whacks across the head were common events then to bring the diverted mind back to a focus on God. Then it was a mother whacking me across the head. This time it was God himself doing the whacking – albeit more gently than my mum.

“I can see he has his hands in his pockets,” said God. “What I can also see is just because you don’t have your hands in your pockets on the outside, it doesn’t mean to say that on the inside those hands aren’t in the pockets.”

My mum often commented on how her outside was not always a reflection of the inside. Just because she was smiling on the outside, it didn’t mean that on the inside she wasn’t weeping. What happens on my outside doesn’t always reflect what is happening on the inside either.

I could give you a list of why I was not really engaged in worship – one of which was the spelling error in one of the slides. My nit-picking gene was in overdrive.

I read Psalm 117 became a living word that sliced through to bone and marrow. If I wasn’t totally engaged in praising God then perhaps I would be better spending that hour or two on a Sunday mowing my lawn or washing my car. If God is not my focus, if the man with his hands in his pockets is my focus – than I have missed it.

This morning I shall tread carefully. I shall remember who it is I came to meet with.  My hands will not be in my pocket, inside or outside because they will be lifted to His throne. His great love toward me, His enduring faithfulness will be my celebration.


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