They were decked out in leather jackets. She was wearing incredibly tall high-heeled shoes. His head was shaved.
I had never seen them before in the Anglican church, sitting right up front on the left side.
And I’m fairly certain they had never been there before.
They could never quite figure out which hymn number we were singing. They were exactly out of sync with when to stand and when to sit. The fumbled with coins as the offering plate came by, dropping them all to the floor and having to catch the usher later as he made his way back up the aisle in order to make their contribution. During the vicar’s sermon, as she got up to get a pencil, the clack-clack-clacking of her high-heels on the ancient stone slab floor reverberated throughout the entire sanctuary.
By many evaluations, they messed up pretty much every facet of their participation in corporate worship that day.
But they came.
Unashamed, they sat near the front when they could’ve hidden in the back behind a monolithic pillar. And they did the best they could to involve themselves in the pageantry of the worship service.
Why were they there? True enough: many young couples come simply because they want to have a church wedding, and they’re required to attend services at the church beforehand.
Maybe that was their reason, as ignoble as it seems. Or maybe they came looking for something. Maybe someone encouraged them to give it a try. Maybe they had come as little children and wanted to make another go of it.
I can recall many times when I have fumbled, and continue to do so. I’ve become lost in looking at the liturgy or the lyrics, only to suddenly come to realization that I am the only one in the massive hall that is still standing (or sitting).
I recite the Lord’s Prayer, loudly, with my American accent ringing clearly in my pronunciation of “trespasses”–and everyone around me knows that I don’t quite fit in. I sing songs with the “wrong” tunes, familiar to me from my upbringing, but differing from the British version being played.
I recall playing guitar to lead music for a Sunday school class one morning. Despite my practice, I couldn’t hit the right chords or find the right rhythm to generate anything approaching a singable tune.
But whereas we, from our place of judgment and evaluation, might put our emphasis on “fumbling,” I think God puts His on “worship.”
Was it polished? Elegant? Refined? In sync?
Immaterial. It was an attempt to orient ourselves toward God and to acknowledge a glimpse of His glory.
True enough, there are inappropriate ways to approach Him, but He looks and judges the heart–and He doesn’t get distracted by the clanging coins or clacking heels. I think He would prefer that we make our attempts at worship, entering into a community, even if we come with stumbling and ignorance.
And, He also looks past the outward actions even when we “get them right,” even when our technique is technically perfect. He looks within to determine the place from which we offer our performance. After all, we may be fumbling in our worship, even if no one else can see it.
So, it’s not for me to judge or laugh at this young couple, but it is an occasion to reflect: is my worship, in its imperfections and inadequacies, touching the heart of God in a pleasing way? Am I fumbling the heart, or just the motions?