Waiting can be difficult

Waiting can be difficult.

I remember as a kid searching the house between thanksgiving and Christmas hoping to discover a cache of gifts. I plead the 5th regarding whether I ever succeeded, or whether I may or may not have unwrapped, opened and played with, and rewrapped and rehid any gifts.

I remember sitting in doctors’ offices fidgeting, doing the “seek and find” puzzle in Highlights Magazine.

Do you have trouble waiting?

My observation is that portable multimedia technology makes it even more difficult for us to be patient while we wait. Many of us will reach for a cell phone or other device if more than 30 seconds passes between activities. How often do you see people at stoplights or even in slow traffic checking email or Facebook?

Advent is the time in the Christian Year during which we practice waiting as a spiritual discipline. And honestly, we are not very good at it much of the time. We want to sing Christmas Carols rather than Advent hymns. We want to already see the baby Jesus in the manger weeks before our Christmas Eve service.

If the Christian faith wants to teach us any kind of discipline in our lives, it is that of waiting well. Since the Lord first visited Abram and Sarai, the promise came to be fulfilled for a future generation. The gift to them was the hope that their descendants would be blessed to be a blessing. Granted, Abram and Sarai would also benefit and experience joy. The true gift remained for generations yet to be. 200 years later Jacob and his sons move to Egypt. Another 400 years and the 12 tribes of Hebrews left Egypt to begin their 40 year journey to the Promised Land. Thus the land was finally given to Abraham’s descendants more than 600 years after it was first promised. And even then, it would take generations for the land to be fully occupied.

Likewise, from the time of the Babylonian and Assyrian conquests of Israel and Judah another 600 years passes before the messiah arrives to fulfill promises made by Isaiah, Micah and other prophets. Waiting is inherent in our faith.

Jesus repeatedly promises a coming kingdom and a second coming of the messiah, the timing of which seems fluid. We hear things like, “You will not pass through all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Mt 10:23), and, “Not all of these will pass before the son of man comes” (Matthew 16:28).

Similarly, regarding the Kingdom of Heaven/God:

  • “The Kingdom of God is among you,” (Luke 17:21)
  • “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near,” (Mt 3:2)
  • “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God,” (LK9:27)

The times appear to stretch and collapse. This is the “already / not yet” nature of our faith.

The same applies when we talk about salvation – we have been saved, we are being saved, we shall be saved. All are equally true simultaneously, though they appear to be contradictory.

We are waiting for something which we already have received. Paul uses the language of “first fruits” to describe this experience:

  • “we have the first fruits of the spirit while we await [the completion of our] adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rm 8:23)
  • “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” (1 Cor 15)

The question is then:

“Can there be any Christian Faith without waiting?”
“If we remove waiting from the Christian Faith, what is left?”

The LORD Searches for His Children

Sermon Notes for 112314 ~ Ezekiel 34 & Mattew 25:31-46
(See also “Some may be more lost than others…”)


As we reflect on these texts and our own lives, we do well to move to each position in the story and see things from that vantage.

  • Let’s give ourselves the benefit of the doubt for the moment and imagine that we are in fact the seep of MT 25, the sheep whom God seeks and blesses in Ezekiel 34. What do we notice?
    1. We cannot save ourselves or provide for ourselves. We are in need of the Good Shepherd’s intervention.
    2. We are lost. The folks in the best position in the story are lost. Being lost is scary and dangerous and confusing. Life is hard.
  • Now imagine that we are the goats of MT25 and the bad sheep of Ezekiel 34 – the ones making things harder for others. What do we notice?
    1. Often, the negative consequences are a result of our meeting our own needs. We may not mean to be hurtful or harmful. We’re just trying to get water to drink and grass to eat. BUT, we do it unmindfully and in ways that disregard the needs of others downstream or who will follow after us. Meeting our needs is fine, let’s just be more attentive.
  • Now, imagine for a moment that you are God, the Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34, that you are Jesus, the righteous King and Judge of Matthew 25. What do you notice now?
    1. All the sheep and goats are yours. They are all your flocks.
    2. Some of your flocks get more than enough while others go lacking.
    3. Some whose job it is to care for others are too busy caring for themselves.
    4. Some are looking out for the needs of others, some are ignoring the needs of others.

Ezekiel prophesied that “David” would sit on the throne over Gods’ redeemed sheep. Matthew places Jesus squarely on that throne as the “Son of David” and the fulfillment of those promises.

This combination of texts is so tricky, particularly for professing Christians. We want to believe that we are those who “were lost but now are found, blind but now we see.” We want to interpret the text in a way that sheds favorable light on us and our relationship to God. Others may be in trouble, but we are good. We get to enter into God’s kingdom, while others may be destined for eternal judgment and fire.

The problem with this is that the texts won’t sit still. They keep moving around on us “like chasing after wind, or trying to hold oil in the hand.” As soon as you think you’ve got something pinned down, and you know where you stand, it comes whipping around and heads straight for you.

When the question is “Am I a sheep or a goat?” the answer is never either or, never one or the other. The answer is always both/and. We are sheep, God’s beloved who are lost and lovingly sought after. We are also in some settings the unfaithful leaders, the goats who lead others astray, who refuse to help when we can, who fail to live up to God’s righteous demands. We can’t put ourselves or anyone else squarely into one category or another. This may be why Jesus slyly spins the “love your neighbor hate your enemy” proverb around to “Love your neighbor, but don’t stop there. Love your enemy – anyone can love a neighbor.” (MT 5:43)

Taken together, these texts paint a picture in which God reaches into human history, and again at the end of history, to put things right. Relationships and circumstances may work against us, colluding with our own twisted ideas of what is good and right for us. We end up on the wrong side of self, other and God. We end up lost, by our own wandering and by the misdirection of others. God steps in to redeem and restore us. God seeks out the lost sheep. When we become “found sheep” then God enlists us to share the work of reaching and restoring, seeking and saving. Unfortunately, we are still oft times persuaded by our minds to behave selfishly and justify ourselves with religious platitudes.

This was perhaps the greatest sin of the Pharisees. They were devout, and also terribly wrong. They thought that loving God meant rejecting anyone who had anything about them that God would not approve. Which of course put them on the very list they were creating – those who are not perfect in God’s eyes and thus worthy of our scorn.

Instead we turn in a humble posture before God and one another, realizing that only in this posture can we stay right with God. As soon as we presume the judgment seat, we come under judgment.* As human beings, we have made a right mess of things. So it is, and so it ever more shall be. Even so, we are responsible to make an effort toward putting things right. God has reached out to us and calls us to our better selves. At our best ,we receive what God offers, which is the wisdom and strength in community to grow toward maturity, laying aside our exclusive self-interest and choosing instead a mutual interest that creates a place for all at God’s bounteous table of blessing.

_____________________________
*NOTE: This does not mean that we avoid discernment and accountability. Both are essential. When Jesus says, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” I think he is not actually telling us to avoid wise and discerning scrutiny of words and actions and circumstances. He is, however, warning us that with this scrutiny we bring ourselves under the same. It is a proverb stating the way things work, not an edict telling us how to behave. Perhaps the best illustration of this is found in Proverbs 26: “4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” In other words – Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. But what choice do you have, really. Do what must be done, and recognize that you bring the same back on you.

Some may be more lost than others

The Parable of the Good Shepherd Separating the Sheep from the GoatsThe bible often uses imagery of a Shepherd and flocks of sheep or goats to illustrate the relationship between God and humanity and among humankind. One particular passage suggests at least three things under this paradigm:

  1. That God will seek after God’s lost sheep;
  2. That at least some of God’s flock are responsible for fouling the nourishment of others; and finally
  3. That God will judge in favor of those who are disadvantaged at the hands of others.

I wonder how this might apply to today’s local, national and geopolitical and religious conversations?

Originally this seemed to refer exclusively to the people of Israel. In Matthew’s gospel (MT 25:31-46) we hear Jesus reinterpret the story. Now it seems to apply not only to Israel but to all of humanity – “All the nations will be gathered before Him” (v25:32). Thus, as with much of scripture, we have multiple layers or lanes of interpretation which are simultaneously offering us truths.

One of the obvious questions to be asked is this: who is whom? Good sheep? Bad sheep? Goats? Lost sheep? Where do we locate ourselves and our group?

The tendency I often hear is to think that “our group” are the good sheep or lost sheep for whom Jesus searches. By implication, the folks who disagree with us on one or another matter of interpretation are thus the bad sheep. This is a very dangerous path to take.

At the very least, let us ask ourselves:

  • Who around us is lost and in need of rescue?
  • Where around us is the nourishment (water and pasture) for others being fouled by our actions?

Some time ago I proposed that we are all goats, at least according to the definition of Matthew 25:42-43. If ever you or I have seen someone in need and withheld aid, then we are goats. End of story. Unless…. God’s grace intervenes because we are at the same time lost sheep. Then, perhaps we have some hope.

The folks who are worst off are those who think they are safe, who think they are the privileged sheep when in fact they are responsible for the suffering of others. They may be more lost than others. (cf EZ 34:1-10 & MT 23)

What do you think?

Here’s the text:
Ezekiel 34: 11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out….. 17 As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?
(Click here for the full text)

Entering into God’s Joy

Sermon notes for 11/16/14  Matthew 25:14-30


When we learn to use
whatever God has given us
so that it bears fruit,
then the gift we receive
is the joy of God’s presence.

It doesn’t seem fair. Those who have nothing, even what little they do have will be taken away.

We see this principle played out all the time, don’t we? Those who are strong and good looking and affluent seem to progress based on these advantages, while those who lack these resources, at least as measured by the prevailing culture, seem to fall behind or at least plateau. Perhaps one of the most absurd examples is all of the free swag given to famous singers, musicians, actors and athletes. Those who could pay 10x for these trinkets get them for nothing. Of course we quickly recognize that the producers and vendors of said products consider this a marketing expense – hoping that said entertainers will choose to wear/use the products and advertise such, these days on twitter or other social media platforms. Fair never really enters into it.

And let’s be honest, who among us wouldn’t want our product or service promoted by someone who could get us exposure? What author would say, “No thanks,” to Oprah’s book of the month club? What designer doesn’t want to “show up” on the red carpet being worn by the latest bombshell or her escort?

It’s the same on the other end. We see the poorest neighborhoods repeatedly losing basic services – like access to quality, affordable, healthy food. Developers conspire with government officials to claim eminent domain in the interest of “the public good” and displace the poor from what has been home for generations. You’ll never see them drop a football stadium in the middle of Highland Park, for instance.

Some have been inclined toward righteousness indignation directed at God for including this pronouncement in both Matthew 25 and Luke 19. As though God were saying, “Here is how I want things to work.” We need to remember a few things about this text:

  • It is not about the physical, temporal experiences of wealth and poverty in this life. It is about the Kingdom of God/Heaven and parable is a reference point.
  • Parables are not allegories with which we can extrapolate point by point referents for each element in the story. They typically illustrate one broad idea, or perhaps two.
  • Not everything in scripture is prescriptive. Not every word is God saying, “This is how I prefer things to be. This is how they will be at the consummation and final settling of accounts for all things.” At least some of scripture, including much of Jesus’ own teaching, is simply saying, “This is how things are. You’d better wake up.” For instance, when Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you,” we certainly would never conclude that Jesus intends, “I want there to always be some poor people.” He’s stating a simple fact. Much of the wisdom in Proverbs is of this sort – a father’s wisdom to his son: “You may not like it, but this is how the world works, and you need to be smart about things.”

Given all of this, what then is the parable about? Well, as Jesus says in the beginning of the chapter, “The kingdom of heaven will be like this .… (here he tells the parable of the wedding and the 10 brides maids, and then) .… For it is as if…” In other words, The Kingdom of Heaven is as if a man going on a journey summoned his servants…” Luke’s gospel frames the story slightly differently, but to the same effect: “As they were listening to this (Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus), he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return.’” (LK 19:11-12)

In both versions we have an absent landlord/ruler who entrusts servants with resources during his absence. They had been entrusted with the resources to care for and lead the nation, and they had failed. Their resources will be taken away and given to others. Luke’s immediate context and Matthew’s broader context both make clear that a theopolitical statement is being made hear – against the rulers of the Jewish community. As with much of Jesus’ teaching regarding the religious leaders of his time, these stories remind us that we are responsible for and accountable as stewards of that which we have – resources, opportunities, relationships, even our faith and spiritual/religious understandings. All of this is we have so that we might be a blessing to others.

Whatever we have has within it the seeds of more – more life, more truth, more hope, more peace, more opportunity, more prosperity, more faith. When we

We also see in these stories the importance of taking a chance, taking a risk with our lives. This is encapsulated in the truisms: “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” and “With great risk comes the opportunity for great reward.” Jesus says, “Unless a seed fall to the ground and die, it cannot bear much fruit” (John 12:24). True, that the primary point here is to reflect on his own death, and thus our following his example to release our own lives for the sake of the Gospel. A starting point in this journey is that we must step outside the door into the world. Unless we show up with our gifts, then we cannot bear fruit.

I think we err when we focus on the servant who buried the coin rather than investing it. The focus rather should be on those who were good stewards of the gift entrusted to them. Their reward was not the increase, which after all belonged to the master. Their reward was to “enter into the joy of the Master.”

This text undercuts any presumption toward a “prosperity gospel”, because the prosperity is not ours. The initial gift belonged to God, so any increase also belongs to God. What is ours is the joy of God which comes to us as we use that which has been entrusted to us.

The relationship between parent and child is a good example of this. Children are precious and fragile and vulnerable. Many a parent is tempted to harbor, shelter and protect their beloved from any and all threats. But as the prophet Dory said to Marlin:

Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

Parents have to learn the process of releasing their children into the world, a gradual letting go and learning a delicate combination of hope and trust.

What Jesus is asking of us (requiring from us?) is that we show this same combination of hope and trust with our own lives. We need to learn to parent ourselves, to nurture and care for and finally to release and send ourselves forth into the world. We can be like the third servant who in fear simply held onto what had been given, planning to return it at the end.

Every spring a farmer takes risks by planting seeds that could be eaten now in the hope of reaping a 100 fold harvest later.

Every entrepreneur knows that you have to pour yourself heart and soul into your idea, your dream, your scheme, and believe that it can succeed. Otherwise, you’d never start.

Every business person knows that it takes money to make money.

Every newlywed couple enters into their covenant relationship with hope and trust, but without certainty except that there will undoubtedly be difficult times, and that one will eventually grieve the loss of the other.

If all we plan to do is hand Jesus back the faith that has been given to us, the spiritual gifts entrusted to us, the church and gospel of which we are stewards, then even what we have will be taken away. We enter into God’s joy when we take risks.

Again I’m reminded of the end of the Mary Oliver poem “A Summer Day”. What if the parable is at least in part about your life? Could it be that there is a suggestion embedded within the text that your experience in the afterlife depends at least in part on what you do in this life? That is certainly the overt message of the next parable, so perhaps this one at least hints in that direction. This life is the only one of its kind that you will be given, whatever can or cannot be said of the afterlife from a Christian perspective. Don’t waste it on fear or resentment of others or of God.

It is also, I believe, about The Church. The church does not exist as a memorial to those who have gone before. It is not a mausoleum or a museum. The church buildings and property and resources are not here to be a witness of those who came before, but of the kingdom that is coming. These things around us are of worth and value only if they help us live and share the hope of the Good News. Imagine that you are characters in the parable, and all your church resources are the talents given. Eventually, Jesus will ask for an accounting, “What did you do with what I gave you?” How will you be able to answer?

When the Master comes, may he find us ready and eager rather than fearful or unprepared. Then, if not before, we will realize that we have been living in God’s joy all along.

Learning and Teaching the Catechism

I’m prepping for my first session of a catechism class – ever. I’m teaching the Christian Faith to a group of youth through a process I personally never experienced. Had we stayed in the Presbyterian church I would have participated in a Faith Formation process prior to catechism. But since we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas when I was 9, and from the Presbyterian church (infant baptism followed by catechism at “the age of reason”) to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (baby dedication followed by Pastor’s class and baptism at “the age of reason”) I got 6 weeks of special instruction rather than a year or more. Nothing so deep as the 128 questions if the Evangelical Catechism, used in the United Church of Christ or even the new and much briefer New City Catechism.

Catechism is an English translation of Katecheo which means “to instruct orally” with a root meaning literally “to pass down”. Disciples don’t even use creeds, except the non-creed-creed “No Creed but Christ!“. We Disciples have much to say about  who we aspire to be, how we believe God works in the world, and what we believe God calls us to be and do. We are less confident in speaking about God’s nature.

I’m particularly struck by the tension between the United Church of Christ being one of the more progressive (and they hope diverse) of mainline denominations yet holding to the Evangelical Catechism as the foundation for confirmation class. Granted, the particular congregation where I currently serve as Interim Pastor still relates mentally, emotionally and spiritually to their Evangelical and Reformed roots. Even so, it is interesting.

I am looking forward to prayerfully studying and discussing the confirmation class books and study guides. I’ll be reading and reflecting on the Catechism’s questions and answers and scripture references. I’m curious to see how my own faith matures and develops as I walk this ancient path with these young people, their mentors and families.

How have you experienced the tensions between teaching or learning the ancient, traditional, orthodox faith in the midst of progressive, secular, post modern cultural influences?

Veterans can find meaning and purpose as they design a new life using existing skills

What if Veterans were helped to not only translate their skills to civilian careers, but to dig deeper into their hopes, dreams and passions? What if they were helped to articulate and pursue a sense of calling and vocation? A holistic life and career coaching process would allow them to flourish by integrating every aspect of their self – body and spirit, relationships and emotions, work and intellect. If we want veterans to find wholeness, we need to relate to them as whole persons, not fragmented and compartmentalized segments.

VeteransDay2014The various branches of the US Military do an excellent job of teaching and developing women and men in particular ways beyond making them warriors: physical fitness, discipline, teamwork, and leadership along with specific job related skills. Active duty and veterans are also able to acquire course of study certifications or undergraduate and graduate degrees. These competencies help equip them to make the transition to civilian life, if they are able to clear several other hurdles.

Upon discharge and return to civilian life many veterans suffer from a sense of hopelessness that is complex in its origins and scope. At its worst this despair leads to suicide, as David Wood reminds us in his 2014 Veterans Day post. Some of these background issues are categorized as medical or psychological (including but not limited to PTSD), and the VA is working to improve its ability to address those. There is a growing recognition that something else is at work which has recently been labeled “Moral Injury“. The Soul Repair Center under the direction of Rita Nakashima Brock at Brite Divinity School, TCU is one of the organizations leading the effort to address Moral Injury. They are developing creative and collaborative ways to build capacity within communities that will support veterans and their families.

While the label “moral injury” may be new, the concept is not. When I served for a year as a resident chaplain at the Dallas VA Medical Center I was privileged to work in a program for homeless vets. One of our primary tasks was to provide room for them to reflect on their experience from a spiritual perspective so that they could identify the spiritual and religious resources that may be at their disposal for addressing the struggles they face. These studies clearly indicated that a spiritual component was present in the difficulties veterans faced, as well as in their resolution.

I want to suggest that this may carry over into their transition to the civilian workforce. The spiritual nature of human labor as meaningful and productive and creative may go back to prehistoric times where religious rituals were connected to various trades and crafts as well as hunting and agriculture. People often associate identity with work, whether their tasks are creative, destructive, or neutral. One of the difficulties people have with their work is that it may not provide them any sense of meaning or purpose, and yet it occupies the bulk of their waking hours.

those who went before are with us still

Films offer us compelling narrative and visual images that can stand in for other more complicated ideas in our lives. The scenes figured in Revelation 7 and Hebrews 12 remind me of two stories in particular, one of which I’ve seen again this week and the other I’d forgotten till someone mentioned it recently. The second film is Places in the Heart. The last scene of which depicts the dead and departed gathered together with the living while the congregation shares the Lord’s Supper. Reconciliation is embodied as the sinners and sinned against break bread and share a common cup.

More familiar to me is the Harry Potter series. In several of the books and films Harry is met by those who have died and yet continue to love and encourage him – first his parents, then a gathering of family and friends and again, and finally his mentor. In each instance Harry receives first hope, then strength, courage and finally wisdom – the very things we would want from a “great cloud of witnesses”.

These are not allegories for the texts or other biblical truths – that would risk abuse of both the scriptures and the cultural narratives. They do illustrate this longing we have to believe that we are indeed surrounded by those who have gone before, and that their presence is a help to us.

This is the hope that Hebrews 12 affirms. In our struggles, of faith and otherwise, we are not alone. We are not the first, and we won’t be the last. Others have endured trials perhaps more arduous or lengthy and triumphed. Whether our adversary is physical or mental illness, political or social injustice, theological confusion, or temptation to sin, Christ is our shepherd and all these saints prepare the way of The Lord before us that we might walk in it. To “prepare the way of the Lord” (Lk 3:4) means to make a clear path for God in the world and in people’s lives (first our own). It also means that, like a group of people walking or cross country skiing through deep snow, the first person clears a path so those who follow will have an easier time of it.

footsteps in snow
Shore of Lake Michigan. Chicago, IL © Ken G. Crawford, 2014

In chapter 7 of his Revelation John sees these witnesses who have remained faithful to Christ in the face of great struggle standing around the throne of God in worship. They lead us in worship of God just as in discipleship to Jesus. They go before us to prepare the way, to show us how to worship. When we enter into intentional, focused worship of God we recognize that they are already there. We are “returning to the show already in progress.”

WorshipBeforeThroneOfGod
c.1020 CE, artist unknown [i]

I appreciate Bob Cornwall’s reflections – in particular that they remind us of the global nature of this cloud of witnesses – they come from “every nation and tribe and people and language” in other words every demographic group imaginable. This is reminiscent of Matthew 28:16-20 “go into all the world and make disciples from every nation” and Luke 10 where Jesus appoints 70 additional disciple missionaries to go (70 thought to represent the nations of the ancient world because of the 70 family names descended from Noah in Genesis 10).

As I look at these texts, several things come to mind.

  1. We are not the first ones to walk this faith journey. Often it feels as though the challenges before us are insurmountable and no one has ever faced them before. Clearly that is not the case. Despite technical and political developments, life is really not so different. We live, we love, we get hurt, we forgive, we create.
  2. We will also die. One day the arguments we are having will be in the past of another dimension and we will be with God, worshipping in fullness that which we only know in part today.
  3. Others will be where we now are. As we remember those who have gone before us, one day someone will light a candle, speak our names, and remember us, shedding a tear at the same time that they smile for having known and loved us.
  4. Those who have gone before us may have some lessons to teach us, not the least of which could be to relax just a bit. The things we think, say and do matter, to be certain. They impact the lives of others and the world. But they are not permanent. They too will pass away. Others will need to live with the consequences of our choices, but those consequences are not permanent. Perhaps, as a result, we might learn to hold on to our opinions and needs more loosely, and hold on to God and one another more faithfully.

As I light candles in memory of those I’ve loved and lost, I will be considering how my life might be more filled by God’s grace and mercy. How might I find courage and hope in the witnesses who surround me and cheer me on, even as they surround God’s throne in worship and praise? What might I try, risk, strive, during this next year because I know I’m not alone, because they’ve gone before, because others are coming behind? I’m stirred yet again by Mary Oliver’s words:

“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Written as a reflection on for All Saints Sunday, 11/2/14, at St. Paul UCC in Dallas. Based on Revelation 7 and Hebrews 12.

[i] http://iconsandimagery.blogspot.com/2009/09/worship-before-throne-of-god.html