Heart for worship

I want to share one thing I felt during my recent visit to Mozambique, Africa. The place where missionary Myung Sup Chung ministers is about 30 – 40 minutes’ drive from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. If poverty is evident in the capital, Maputo, the surrounding area goes without words. There are buses in the main road, but normally, people need to walk about 3-4 Km to their homes. The road is not paved so there are thick layers of dust on the road. The road in the village is made of sand which makes walking difficult- just like walking on the sandy beach. Houses are not of boards but of cement block, but most of them have no windows and have dirt floors. They have electricity, but only a few houses in the village have running water.

Imagine how the village people come to church on Sunday. Except for the few people who live near church, most of them have to walk at least 2-3 Km. During the hot summer, walking on hot sand, their feet will be covered with dust and their bodies will be covered with perspiration. After worshiping for 2 hours in the slate-roofed church without A/C, everybody is drenched with sweat. In this situation, however, everybody comes to church fully groomed almost without exception. Many ladies wear traditional African clothing, but quite a few wear western style dress or suits with their hair completely dressed. Many men wear suits with ties. They are dressed in “Sunday clothes” which are reserved for special occasions only, carry bibles and come to church with happy hearts. As I passed by them in a car, thinking how hot and uncomfortable they must be, their heart for worship really touched me.

Since I did not attend church during my childhood, I do not have childhood memories of going to church. However, we must have similar experiences where we dressed to our best to go to church. A book titled “Keeping the Sabbath wholly” by Marva Dawn describes a similar experience. When she was young and poor, she had one special dress which she could wear only on Sundays. Whenever her parents bought her new clothes it was invariably for Christmas or Easter and the clothing was only for church until she would get another one.

She wrote as follows. “I do not regret that my family were poor at that time. If we were rich, this valuable lesson could not be learned… It was important to prepare the dress on Saturday evening to be ready for Sunday to show respect to my Lord and to look my best before Him. With such preparation, I could deeply feel the presence of God during worship. Even from the time of young age, I understood that the wild and noisy play did not go with the holy place.”

We think that heart is more important than outward appearance. We also think that concentrating on the outside could cause a hypocritical attitude. As a result, we disregarded formality. Some claim that clothing does not matter since worship is to be done by spirit and truth. Some also stress that daily life is important and not just Sundays. However, I wonder whether we have lost our reverent heart for worship along with this casual attitude and that has possibly ushered in a time when it is more difficult to experience the presence of God when we did not take time to put on our “Sunday clothes”.

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