Eliezer Roque Cisneros
FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
Have you ever been at church and just, I don't know, felt empty? Almost as if it’s dragging on too long only to realize song service has only made it through the first line of the first verse?
I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and at first I was convinced it was purely a matter of ineffective worship services and poor sermons. Today I suggest to you the contrary. It’s not the leadership that deserves the blame for meaningless worship; it’s you and me.
I have, on several occasions, shared my observations about the lifeless atmosphere at our vespers with Abner Campos, vespers coordinator and junior theology major. I’m glad to say I was surprised and relieved at how quickly he acknowledged the issue.
He not only agreed but also shared, "Church on Sabbath and vespers only matter if we've been worshipping and fellowshipping during the week." Abner made a point I hadn't considered and it really helped shape my understanding of meaningful worship.
The reason our religious programs evoke only mediocre praise is because we, the worshippers, often show up to church with the idea that we’re going to be spiritually fed by the speaker, the worship director, the special music or the scattered moments of prayer.
With this mindset we show up to church, not to worship God but to be catered to.
However, the reality of religious services is that they’re not services to us—they’re services to God. Admit it, we hear all the time, “Hey, how was service today?” “Oh it was alright. The sermon was good but I wasn’t really blessed today.”
Even when we do have something good to say we talk about whether we were satisfied with the program or not. “Man, the sermon today was a huge blessing to me!” We approach church with a mentality of entitlement, and, frankly, it’s tearing out the heart of worship.
When we go to church, we go to worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not to receive a blessing. We sing to glorify the Eternal, not to feel good. We pray to God to throw our meaninglessness at his feet in total resignation that my problems and yours are nothing in his hands, not to ask of Christ like it’s somehow more likely he’ll answer our prayers in church.
We listen to the reading of the Word out of reverence and childlike curiosity, not out of entitled expectation.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we can’t walk away from church with an immense blessing or that spiritual leaders have nothing to do with the worship levels of the church. Sometimes the sermon will speak to you in meaningful ways or the music will move you at the core. Sometimes because of our leaders; other times, despite them.
When Abner was explaining the emptiness of church, he explained, "If we expect vespers and programs to be the substance of our relationship with God, we'll leave empty and hollow and in danger of experiencing meaninglessness.”
No matter how much of a spiritual high it gives you, no matter how powerful the sermon is, most of what makes up devotions is how much of ourselves we put into them. We are the substance of communion with the Divine.
Eliezer Roque Cisneros is a junior theology major.