Read John 4:1-42
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6, NLT)
In January of 2010 I had the awesome privilege of making a cross-cultural trip to India, which was required for seminary. Shortly after arriving we went to the Sri Radha Krishna temple in Bangalore to take a tour of it and begin our immersion into the culture of India. As we were walking in, I noticed a group of pilgrims who were on their way out. These pilgrims were dressed in nothing but a dhoti (a traditional skirt worn by men). They were bare-chested, barefoot, and unshaven. Not wanting to have any part in playing the stereotypical “tourist” who stared and took pictures of people as they walked by, I decided to keep my focus on the stairs before me and act as if I didn’t even notice them walking down.
As I was passing them, however, I could not help but notice the hand extending toward me. “Brother,” I heard a voice say. I looked up and at the man whose arm was extended in my direction. Not wanting to be rude I clasped his extended hand and, after doing so, he put his other hand over mine and said, “Brothers—We are brothers—brothers.” As he was saying this he was looking me straight in the eyes, as if he was communicating with my very soul. Then, as quickly as he had come, he let go of my hand and went on his way.
I too went on my way; however, there is no doubt that I was forever changed by that experience. I could no longer focus on the “strange” things around me. It no longer occurred to me that I was in a Krishna Temple, or that I was thousands of miles away from home. I felt completely encompassed by the presence of God. That is the closest I have ever felt to TRUE worship. In part, I felt ashamed that I had not initially reached out (in Christian LOVE) to the pilgrim the way he did to me; yet, at the same I felt the urge to forget all that and to just simply worship God.
What I realized from this experience is that acts of LOVE usher in acts of true worship. When Jesus was in Samaria, a place despised by Jews and occupied by those the Jews considered to be ungodly, he not only took note of the woman at the well, he also took the time to talk with her. It is as if he reached his hand across to her and said, “You are my sister, my sister.” He spoke with her as a teacher would a student in a time and place when it was forbidden for a man to be alone with and talking to another woman.
And then, just like the pilgrim who embraced me, Jesus went his own way. The woman was left there, in a state of true worship. And then she ran to tell others about her encounter. “He told me everything I have ever done,” she said to them. Of course he hadn’t done that, at least not in the conversation we are privy to in that account (he told her how many times she had been married). Yet, that is her reaction to the experience. She had an encounter with God and found herself worshipping.
We often spend much of our time fussing over church and rituals and liturgy; however, what Jesus teaches, and what my experience in India shows, is that TRUE worship is being connected to and being in awe of the grace and love of God. What God is calling us to do is to be agents of God’s Love and Grace. God is calling us to be agents of hope, healing and wholeness in this world. If we allow God to be present through us in the lives of others, we will then understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.” (John 4:21, 23)
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped” — Jack Hayford
Lord, be present through me in the lives of others. Use me as an agent of your love and grace in the lives of others. Amen.