Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 2) – Sunday Morning Worship & The Walk of Preacher Kid’s Shame

Posted: January 27, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 2 of 4)

The Lord’s Chosen Place of Worship

You are sitting in church minding your own business just trying to soak in the worship of the Lord. Then, there is a family behind you where they brought every crinkly package of food possible into the worship service. To keep their kid quiet, they have brought cookies, potato chips, you name it. The crinkling of the package as they open it shoots into your ears and that’s all you can hear. It’s like when you are trying to go to sleep and your spouse seems to be breathing more heavily than usual. You here each and every inhale and exhale. That’s what this seems like. The crinkling of the aluminum foil packaging is resounding and pounding in your ears. Then, little junior gets the package from his mom and you begin to hearing crunch, crunch, crunch. Every bite seems amplified. You can hear the incisors break each cookie or chip and then you can hear the mastication of the other teeth as the food is molded into a swallowable ball. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Every chew can be heard because, of course, sweet little junior has not been taught to chew with his mouth closed. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Then, there is the sippy cup that is pulled out because little junior is about to choke on his chips or cookies. Mommy can I have something to drink. I’m thirsty. I’m thirsty! I’m thiiiiiirsty! Of course, little junior is going to drop the sippy cup in the floor and it rolls toward your foot and comes to rest there, dripping little drops of juice on the floor as it rolls and it emits the aroma of the juice contained within. After it hits your foot, you bend down to see what disturbed the peaceful time that your foot was having below and you  find the cup dripping juice near your shoe. You reach down and pick it up and then turn to the row behind you and you make eye contact with an embarrassed mom who says she is sorry. You say it’s no big deal and you hand her the sippy cup. Repeat this process at least two more times during the service.

 

During the sermon, it is inevitable that little junior is going to begin misbehaving. Whining that he’s hungry. He’s thirsty. He wants to go home. His mom begins a negotiation process with the little man. You are trying to hear the sermon but you are inevitably drawn the words being spoken in the drama that is unfolding in the row behind you. The mom is quietly trying to get her son to quiet down. He will have none of it. He wants the world to know that he is unhappy. He begins crying because he is not getting his way. Mom tries to get him to quiet down but that just seems to make the brewing scene to become worse. Dad is trying to be purposefully oblivious to the situation unfolding between his wife and his child. He is waiting for his number to be called. You know the call. (Insert your name here), will you do something with YOUR son! This is the exasperated cry of a mom having to deal with this international crisis of the country of mom and the country of child. Finally, the deeper toned voice of the father speaks to the child. However, the child’s nuclear core is already in meltdown mode and the atomic blast is soon to follow. You know the one. Where the child cries, takes a deep, momentary breath, and here it comes. The split second of peace that you know is followed by the highest pitched, ear-piercing cry that a kid can muster. Finally, with that spine-tingling cry that makes every cell in your body jiggle a little as if the balance of the universe had been altered, the mother gathers up the crying child’s toys, potato chip bags, sippy cups and leaves the auditorium. Oh, sweet Jesus! Peace at last. What is this that you hear, the pastor is doing his closing prayer. What? I missed the whole sermon.

 

Have you ever experienced that? Neither have I. LOL! NOT! Yes, this has happened to me before and I am sure that it has happened to you. Children who have never been taught to sit still and be quiet under the watchful eye of their parents are annoying. Parents that are too scared to stifle little johnny’s creativity and development with, what, discipline? That’s annoying. They always seem to find their way to the row behind me.

 

That’s a far cry from the worship experiences that I had as a child. I was the son of a preacher man in the United Methodist Church in South Carolina. Growing up, my dad served mainly rural churches and he often had multiple churches. But, it was not until that he got an “city church” appointment in Anderson, SC as the associate pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church there that my illustration finds its home. When we moved to Trinity, I was just beginning the middle school years. That meant I was beginning a life of my own. School dances. Doing things with friends away from the watchful eye of my parents. Middle school football. Church league basketball. I had a social life of my own. Even church was different at that age. No longer did I sit with my mom during church service nor did I want to. I was a grown up now in my own mind. Sitting with your parent at church, how humiliating!

 

This one particular Sunday, me and my crew (Donnie, Ritter, Parker, Rodney, and several others), the Trinity 12-Under Basketball Team gang. We sat in the balcony on this day, this Sunday. At Trinity, Bill McNeil was the senior pastor and my dad was filling the newly created associated pastor’s position. The church was a growing one and the committees that be at Trinity decided it was time to increase the staff and my dad was the first to fill the associate’s position. My dad got to preach occasionally but not every Sunday like he was used to in all of his previous appointments. So, this was an unusual appointment for him because my dad loved to preach and he was good at it. But back to the story here, knowing that Bill was doing the preaching on this day and my dad was handling all the liturgy of the service (that goes along with traditional church – responsive readings, intercessory prayers, etc.). Me and my boys, my posse, my gang, we were sitting in the very back row of the balcony. Up there during the lead up activities to the sermon, our goofy banter was muffled by music, singing, responsive readings, and we would cool it and quiet down for prayers. But during Rev. McNeil’s sermon, we couldn’t stand it of course and began passing notes and talking and laughing (as quietly as we could or so we thought). So, Rev. McNeil is preaching. My dad is seated to his left, the audience’s right. And then it happened.

 

Right smack dab in the middle of Rev. McNeil’s sermon, my dad (known to others as Rev. Bowling), interrupts Rev. McNeil and in front of the whole church (and Trinity was big church, maybe 600 or so in attendance on a Sunday morning) and calls me out! Mark Bowling, come down from the balcony right this minute and come sit on the front row where I can keep an eye on you. I was mortified. After my dad returns to his seat, Bill McNeil goes back to preaching. If this was a movie, there would be a dirge playing in the background as I made my way down the stairs from the balcony into the lobby of the church, through the double doors and into the main seating area of the church, down the middle aisle. Though Pastor McNeil was continuing to preach, all eyes seemed to begin to be fixated on me as I passed by each pew row. Finally, to the front row and I skulk into my seat. My dad’s bright baby blue eyes staring at me the whole time. Uggh. What a day I was having! Being a preacher’s kid can be a liability at times! LOL! Never ever forget that day. It is seared. That’s a family worship memory right there! Even if my dad mentioned it today (and it has been mentioned frequently over the years), some forty-two years later, I will still remember the embarrassment of what had become known among my dad, my mom, my brother and me as “the Walk of Shame”. In the general public, that may been the morning after a one-night stand, but in our family unit, it was that fateful day in Anderson in the spring of 1975 –  the Walk of Shame.

 

What is your worship horror story? Those things that happen when you were worshiping as a family at church. In most churches today, the children do not worship with their parents just because of scenarios such as the two that I have offered up this morning. Kids go to kids church until they are in high school and can handle themselves in the grown-up church service. Occasionally, though, parents, for whatever reason, will take their small kids into grown-up worship even today. Maybe, too, you go to a church that is not big enough where it can have a separate worship service for children and pre-teens so you have the experiences of having children in the main worship service. It seems to me when we don’t have kids in our Sunday morning main worship services, we are missing an opportunity for discipline. Although I had my moments like the one mentioned earlier, generally, I knew that I had better behave in church or that I would get “my back porch painted red” (that’s “spanked” for you non-Southerners) when I got home. That’s not to say that kids’ church is not a great thing. When you have the opportunity to have kids church, you can create an environment where the kids can actually understand biblical concepts on their level of understanding and experience. Regardless, we are commanded by God to worship as families and not just on Sundays.

 

Those worship horror stories of worshiping with kids is what leapt into my mind this morning along with my own personal, being a preacher’s kid, walk of shame. This morning, I really picked up on vv. 12 and 19 when reading this passage, Deuteronomy 12. Let’s focus on those verses this morning as we re-read chapter 12:

 

12 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

 

4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

 

8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.

 

15 Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. 16 But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. 18 Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to. 19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.

 

20 When the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you, and you crave meat and say, “I would like some meat,” then you may eat as much of it as you want. 21 If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. 22 Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. 23 But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. 24 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 25 Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

 

26 But take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give, and go to the place the Lord will choose. 27 Present your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God, both the meat and the blood. The blood of your sacrifices must be poured beside the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.

 

29 The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.

 

32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.[a]

 

The Israelites placed great emphasis on family worship. Whether it was a ritual sacrifice or a great festival, worship was a family event. This gave the children a healthy respect for worship of the Lord and it gave parents a great responsibility to make God a part of daily life and so that worship of God in formal ways was just a part of the fabric of the family. Raise them up in the ways of the Lord and they will never depart from it, the Bible tells us. God wants us as parents to worship Him together. God wants to be part of our family life. God wants to be front and center of the child-rearing process. God wants to be at the core of who we are as families. Worship is not something that just the parents do.

 

Sure, it’s tough to get your kids up and get them to church and, sure, sometimes they act up and you wonder why you even came to church on this Sunday. Let us begin now to make worship a part of our lives, our family lives. Let us read Bible stories to our kids and explain Bible stories to our kids in ways that they will relate to their own lives. Let us jam at the house to worship bands like Jesus Culture as a regular part of our routine with our kids. Let them see us having fun when our favorite Jesus Culture song is played. Let us dance, dance, dance when it comes on. Let us see Sunday morning as something that we want to do and not as a have-to. Our kids feed off us. If you don’t worship with all abandon, they won’t either. If you don’t study the Bible, they want either. If God is not central to your life, it won’t be in theirs either. Let’s learn to let loose and worship the Lord as a family. Let’s not make it about do’s and don’t’s! Let’s make it about being joyous in the Lord every day and on Sunday!

 

Amen and Amen.

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