Sun is shining. Cool spring air embraces me. Suddenly sirens all around. “Oh, it’s Friday at 11 a.m. A weekly test of the tornado alert system.”

This is what Sunday worship is for me. A weekly test. It is a heart check. To determine its strength so I can count on it in stormy weather.  This isn’t the heart test several of my friends have taken—getting numbers to indicate heart disease. It is a test to of my courage—my heart’s capacity to do what I believe.

We do four things to test our courage in worship. First we gather with all. We greet friends. We meet strangers. We run into enemies. But we are all there—those who nourish us and those who threaten us. And I gather with them to see if I have the heart to welcome into my life all the creatures created by the divine hand. Sometimes I pass. Too often I balk at the presence of all.

And when we worship, we also listen. We listen to words from tradition, words from the world, words from the hearts of others on the journey of discovery.  And we test our ears. Can we listen well enough to hear a divine word in the words we hear? If so, maybe we can hear the divine spirit in the words we hear everyday. After all, the divine pulses through creation. Do I have the patience to hear? Sometimes I do, but often I don’t take time to listen for love in the others’ voice.

The third test of courage comes when worship calls us to make an offering. How generous is my heart? We come together to practice giving. Do I have the courage to sacrifice what I value for the greater value of divine love and justice in my world. Do I have the heart to risk some of my time and money for the well-being of others.  Sometimes I do. Often I hold back.

And the final test of Sunday worship challenges my resolve. We are sent from worship to be a presence of peace, a champion for the outcast. Do I have the courage, the heart to live my life daily as a loving companion for those around me? I have done that.  And at times I have not.

It is a good thing to test the tornado alert system in our city. Likewise, it is good for me to worship each Sunday to test my courage to live my faith well.


I was sitting in church and suddenly it dawned on me. Keith was playing the organ. He is our organist at the church and the week before he was not there. A guest organist was there and I knew it when I heard the first notes. It didn’t sound the same.

But, last week Keith was back. And all was right with he world. I am accustomed to his practices in worship. I know how long he waits to begin the introduction to hymns. I can detect the subtle differences in the way he plays a spiritual or a classical piece. His selection of the music for the offering is diverse and interesting.

As I sat there listening last Sunday, I realized how much we take Keith’s presence for granted. Here is an artist who shares his gifts each week. He has practiced piano and organ for hours on end throughout his life. He works on music each week to enhance the experience of worship. He selects music that helps communicate the message for the morning. He courageously puts his music into the worship knowing that each mistake he might make will be noticed. And yet, he keeps sharing his love of music with us.

But all to often I come and go from worship, failing to notice how important his gifts are for my experience of the divine presence. His constant presence, his gifts woven through the words, prayers and liturgy, his leading of the congregational hymns with the touch of fingers on a keyboard, all help create a unified experience. All the different things that we do in the worship service and held together by the sensitive contribution of Keith’s talent with he organ and the piano.

I noticed last Sunday, and I deeply appreciate an artist who often goes unnoticed. 


I have often wondered why it is so hard to hang on to gratitude. I mean, why is it that the first response to every minute of our day isn’t, “Wow. Just think of all the gifts of life that I have?” I mean, when we stop and think about it, each breath is an incredible collection of biological gifts. With each breath, the body assimilates the various components of that breath and distributes them to the various parts of the body to keep us going.  And that is just one little thing among the many things that keep us alive each minute.

But, even with these and thousands of incredible gifts of each day, we are sometimes overcome by discontent. We look around us and there are many more things we lack than what we have. We look at those who seem to have life together better than do we. We look at all the gadgets advertised incessantly and think how good life would be if we just had more of them. We look at the lovely people in the media and think how many things would make us look better and have the gifts that they seem to have.

So, maybe because we always lack more than we have, we will always have a level of discontent.  We will always look out and see what else we might be and either work to become more than we are or just be distressed because we do not have all the attributes that we would like to have.

And if this is true, maybe that is why we need to stop and worship regularly. For worship is the regular reminder that we are recipients of grace beyond our own deserving.  It is a reminder that while there is much that we don’t have, what we do have is incredibly amazing. And if we regularly stop to remember that, maybe what we lack won’t be so powerful in shaping our attitude toward the life we live.