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Mike Hickman led singing last Sunday night. The Hickmans will be retiring away to Tennessee soon, and so we relish every chance we get to sing with Mike, having enjoyed him as one of our primary song-leaders for so long. Sunday night’s devotional was doubly memorable because at the beginning Mike was under attack. A horse-fly big enough to be a surveillance drone kept buzzing around his head. The fly interrupted service until he was successfully driven away.
I was immediately reminded of a Sunday evening in May, 33 years ago. I was preaching both services at Bear Wallow, Ohio. My grandparents had driven up from Ceredo, WV to hear me. That evening I was the only man at service except for my grandfather, and so I had to lead singing (my grandfather’s voice had the quality of dentist’s drill – both sonically, and because it struck a nerve). The windows were open and this huge wasp flew in and kept hovering around my face. I thought, “Something that big ought to have a stewardess on it.” I kept shooing him away but he kept coming back to nose-level. I was leading “Trust and Obey,” which is in 3/4 time. I stepped back, and on the down beat I swatted the wasp to the floor. While he was buzzing there, stunned, I stepped forward and flattened him without skipping a beat or a word. The crunch was so loud I could hear it over the singing. No one else noticed - no one except my grandmother.
My grandmother had been watching. When the wasp went “CRUNCH” she started giggling, and she couldn’t stop. My grandma got that way sometimes. She would start giggling, and like a case of hiccups that won’t go away, she kept on giggling until it became a bit disturbing. We had a name for such a phenomenon. We called it “laying an egg.” “What’s wrong with Pauline, is she crying?” one might ask, only to be told, “No, she’s just laying an egg.” She giggled through the prayer, the sermon on Job, and the communion service. A few ladies were inclined to be offended until I told them she had “spells.” They promised to keep her in prayer.
This all swooped in with that horse-fly. I thought about how funny she could be. She had a great joke about a guy selling soap powders door to door, and another about a disembodied head floating down the river. I was about to start laying an egg myself, when I realized that I had completely zoned out. Although I was sitting in the auditorium of the Manassas Church of Christ, I was miles and decades away from being present at worship.
The Mosaic Law makes it clear: an offering to God must be without spot or blemish (Exodus 12.5, Leviticus 6.6). The offerings we bring to Him are not bulls, or lambs, or turtledoves but songs and prayers, meditation and devotion. The quality all these offerings share is focus. We must concentrate, and be attentive in order to make them acceptably. Oh, how easily our offerings become blemished.
Back in the days of the Mosaic covenant, the ability to offer a lamb without blemish would take a great deal of effort and attention. Such an animal would have to be identified, separated out, and lovingly cared for. Otherwise disease, predators, or life on the farm could mar an acceptable offering. Nothing has changed. If we are to bring the Father an unblemished offering, we must worship Him intentionally, attentively, and devotedly.
One reads the great, universe-encompassing song of praise offered at the end of Revelation 5 and one is sure no one singing “Worthy is the Lamb” is wondering who might be pitching for the Nationals today. The immediate presence of God, which fills the universe, leaves no room for such thoughts.
May we be like the prophet in Isaiah 6, who went to the temple and found God there. Our gathering together, wherever that gathering be, is God’s temple. May we be blessed with the same experience of His presence. Only then will we offer our best.