Having recently moved from pulpit to pew changes one’s perspective of worship.
Let’s take the matter of distractions. The person leading worship strives mightily to eliminate or neutralize these irritating attention drainers. What’s the point of a sizzling sermon, an inspiring anthem or a moving worship service if people are distracted?
Most distractions the wise pastor learns to ignore, hoping to lead by example: a siren screaming, a ring tone chirping, an entire family obliviously walking down the center aisle during the reading of the scripture, a sanctuary too hot or cold, drooping flowers, precariously tilted candles, even frightened birds flying through the sanctuary. Eventually the calm pastor gets the upper hand.
But not always. There is no overcoming The Immaculate Distraction – Capital T, Capital I, Capital D, otherwise known as an innocent infant. Even the strongest pastor cannot wield his or her influence over The Immaculate Distraction. Such a pastor could offer $500 bills to the distractees to no avail. He or she could promise to mark down people’s pledge cards at 10 cents on the dollar and get no takers. People within three pews of that infernal baby see and hear only one thing: The Immaculate Distraction. The baby wins. Always.
Even when I couldn’t see those show stoppers from the pulpit I could tell they were working their magic. People would be grinning and ogling while I was portraying a chilling image of the Antichrist. Or emerging from the midst of an otherwise completely catatonic congregation would shine a pocket of amused, bright-eyed worshipers. I knew what was going on. It was a show-stopping baby. This pastor quickly learned to unconditionally surrender to a 15 pound child, cooing or crying.
But that was then. Now I’m a grandfather and a retired pastor sitting with my son, daughter-in-law and the finest little Distraction you’ll ever hope to see: my six-month-old grandson, Graham, who expropriates my attention with the softest sigh. I try to sing the hymns, recite the affirmations and receive the wisdom and inspiration from the sermon. But when this cherubic grandson distracts me I still surrender unconditionally, I’m victimized again, except this time I don’t care!
Now here’s where distraction and worship intersect: As our grand baby sits comfortably in his child carrier I follow his eyes to see what he might be seeing and I trace his line of vision across the sanctuary to a stained glass window on the other side where children surround Jesus. One child in that window on his hands and knees pays no attention to Jesus, being distracted by two red flowers. He sits at Jesus’ feet “considering the lilies of the field” and more of a disciple than anyone in that window.
Distractions and interruptions share this in common: ignore them at your own risk. They both can convey the presence of the Holy Spirit. I freely admit that many of the phrases for this article exploded into my soul during the 11 a.m. worship service. The distracting operation of the Holy Spirit, imparted through a flesh and blood grandchild, cast its spell on me.