By Curtis K. Shelburne
Several years ago I took some of our family 70 miles down the road looking for a little dose of culture. We went to hear the symphony, and with them, the man who’s arguably the best classical guitarist in the world. His performance reminded me of one of my own. No kidding.
The orchestra with which I performed was conducted by Mrs. Stevens, who was not only the head of the music department at San Jacinto Elementary, she was the music department. I played the bells. We performed one evening for an elite group — the PTA. Mom and dad, of course, attended.
Now, I ask you, why did they come? Because they were looking for a cultural experience? Probably not.
Because Mrs. Stevens was world-renowned as a conductor of pygmy orchestras? I don’t think so.
Because the guest soloist was a world-renowned bell player who toured elementary schools the world over and just happened to be their son playing in a limited engagement? No. I may have had a dozen notes. No solos.
No, Mom and Dad were not enamored with the notes or the way I played them. They weren’t in love with the music or the performance. They were in love with me. Which leads me to wonder.
When God’s people gather to worship him, why does God think it worthwhile to be “in their midst”?
This God is the conductor who raises his baton to begin the “music of the spheres” and set the whole universe dancing with delight.
This is the God of heaven where the streets are filled with the continual praise of great choirs, of angelic hosts.
Is God present at worship because our music is so fine? Or our prayers so perfect? Or our preaching so inspiring?
Is God among us because he is so impressed with the way we worship?
My parents, in a sense, lowered themselves to come to an elementary school orchestra performance at a PTA meeting not because we were so good but because they loved me so much.
And our great God? He’s not with us because we’re so good at what we do, or because we or our group “do” worship better or more correctly than others of his people. He’s there in spite of the pitiful walls we create, not because of them. No, God is not there because we are so good, so right, so impressive. We are none of those things.
He’s there because we’re his children. Because he’s our father. Because he loves us with deep and genuine love. And he knows that though our love for him is weak and imperfect, it, too, is real.
Why is God with us when we worship? Because of relationship far more than ritual. We’re not child prodigies wowing heaven with the beauty of our worship. But we are God’s kids. And the God of all joy beams and his heart overflows yet again with love as we offer to him the praise that comes from love. As our hearts dance before him, his heart dances, too.