Thursday, November 11, 2010

Psalm 122 People...

(photo from
His name was Norm, and I was blessed to be his pastor. I don't think his family would mind me sharing this. Mr. Norm was around 90 when I was introduced to him. He was a saint, and very rarely missed a service. Sunday morning, he was there. Sunday night, he was there. When we started a second service to reach out to the twenty-somethings, he was there. He never one time complained about the electric guitars, drums, videos, blue jeans, shorts, and the coffee that flowed during that service, as so many others in that church did. He was just tickled to be there.

One Tuesday night, I got a phone call from Mr. Norm's son. He had taken Norm to the hospital that afternoon because Norm had fallen. Mr. Norm was at all 3 services the Sunday before, but remember he's over 90 now, and a fall at that age can be life threatening, so I got up and went to the hospital.

When I walked into his room, he literally looked like he had been mugged. This saint of the Most High God was bruised from head to toe. Deep purple and black bruises, and they covered practically every part of his body except his face. But...they weren't new bruises. This fall had not happened that day, and you could tell just by looking at him.

I asked him, "Mr. Norm, when did you fall?" He raised his head with what strength he could muster, and said, "Oh, last Saturday, I think."

I asked him, "Did you go to the doctor when you fell?" He said, "No, I didn't go."
Then I said, "Mr. Norm, why not?"

I will never forget this next moment as long as I live and breathe. He looked into my eyes, and said..."I didn't want to miss church Sunday." He knew that if he went to the doctor on Saturday, they would admit him into the hospital and he wouldn't be able to be at church on Sunday.

"I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" - Psalm 122

I have been blessed to lead worship in many different places and in more than one different style. We have worshipped in beautiful sanctuaries, in the basement of a conference center, under a shade tree out back, by a creek, and looking out over the lake. I have been a part of worship with a pipe organ that you can literally feel in the very core of your body, and I have worshipped with a seven piece band, a full orchestra, an acoustic guitar, or no music at all.

What I don't see much in a lot of worship experiences is joy. Real, honest to goodness, joy. Maybe it's just because I'm Methodist and somewhere in our 300 year history we have convinced ourselves that enthusiasm was bad and that signs of joy should be checked at the door with our wet umbrellas. I see a lot of sleepy faces and distant looks. I see a lot of closed mouths when the hymns are being lifted to heaven. I have seen one or two hands raised in worship, but only one or two because we have been taught that we can't look silly in front of God. I'm just not convinced that we are Psalm 122 people anymore.

Mr. Norm lived for worship, and was an active part of that congregation until the last couple months of his life. He brought with him a spirit of pure joy when he came to worship; no pretention, no unrealistic expectations out of clergy or congregation, no worries about image or what other people think, no sense of duty, just the desire, nay, the need to spend time in the presence of his Creator.

This is just Jamie, and I own that up front, but I feel that in a lot of places we have become so concerned about our image that we have no room left in our spirits for rejoicing. We are too guarded, and I'm just as guilty.

But not Norm. If I have met one person in my ministry who has taught me about the spirit I need to bring with me to worship, it was Norm. I'd love to be a fly on heaven's wall just for a minute, just so that I could watch Norm do what Norm did best...rejoice in the presence of God. Psalm 122, I absolutely love that one.


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