This morning I arrived at the church to lead one of our opportunities to experience “Morning Prayer/Lectio Divina.” I was drawn to a phrase that originates in the Psalms. Psalm 27:4 says “One thing I have asked of the Lord and this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”
This particular morning the phrase “to behold the beauty of the Lord” caught my attention. Since I use this pattern on a fairly regular basis there is always the possibility that the words will diminish in impact, so I am grateful for moments when the Holy Spirit seems to capture my attention again with familiar words.
What the Spirit seemed to be addressing was my longing to experience the beauty of the Lord in His house. It seems that lately the house of the Lord has become less a place of beauty and more a place of duty. It seems that when I show up at my church there are always things to be attended to or accomplished in regards to the ongoing ministry to the church and larger community. The demands, though I may choose to ignore them at times, seem to always be pressing in on me in both subtle and not so subtle ways.
One of the challenges of being engaged in the work of the ministry is that Jesus can easily become one’s job rather than the life giving, loving and gracious Savior of our lives. This particular challenge seems to come up often in my own personal life, and I believe it is at least one of the challenges facing my colleagues with whom I partner in ministry. Today the issue was raised again as I noticed that I was showing up to the house of the Lord more out of duty than out of beauty.
This is a good reminder to me to stay attentive to my soul and the love and beauty that Jesus longs for me to experience in relationship with Him. It is a return to first things, the first priority of intimacy with Jesus, which is often obscured by second and third things.
To assist in this return to first things I have begun to ask the question, “How is your soul?” to my colleagues. We have placed in the schedule a once a year “soul assessment” meeting to provide at least one opportunity to reflect with someone else about the condition of their soul in a safe, confidential environment. The hope is to foster a greater awareness of the subtle temptation to settle for the mentality that says, “Jesus is my job” as we perform the tasks of ministry. Then we can encourage the desire to behold the beauty of the Lord in the house of the Lord instead.
As we move further into this year may the Lord help us to, first of all, enjoy the beauty of His presence as we enter His house and then from the fullness of His love engage in the ministry to which we’ve been called.