Lesson Nine from “The Worship Safari”
(A study begun in Tanzania, E. Africa. where I was teaching on worship to a group of pastors who suggested the title, The Worship Safari)
We’re all different. Some of us are prone to put things off if they don’t require our immediate attention, while others like to stay ahead of the curve and keep-their-desk-clean of clutter. I guess I fall somewhere in between. The problem with the former is that occasionally we end up waiting too long and before we know it, it’s too late to do what we should have done.
Then there are times when, because of our just being too busy, we end up missing an opportunity, or what might be a divine appointment, to do something for someone because we were too preoccupied with our own agenda, failing to fulfill what is on God’s program for our lives, something that not only would bless us personally, but others, even on down into the future as was true for Mary of Bethany about whom we studied in the previous lesson. The residual effect of her simple act of worship is still touching us today.
There is something in Mary’s story that is often overlooked, yet it is right there in front of us. In fact, Jesus alluded to it in His response to what she had done. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you’ll not always have me” (John 12:7-8). In other words, “Don’t wait until I’m dead…” And Mary did not wait until Jesus was dead to anoint Him. She did it while He was still alive.
Later, after the crucifixion and burial, when the women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, it is interesting that Mary of Bethany was not among them. In studying this passage, I initially wondered why, then I remembered what Jesus had said. She didn’t wait until He was dead to anoint Him. She had already anointed his body while He was still alive. What lesson is there for us in this act of worship?
There’s nothing quite as final as death. We’ve all experienced this personally through the passing of a family member, friend, or even a casual acquaintance. And the passing of someone you have been close to can conjure up feelings of regret at having not been as faithful as you wish you had been in the giving of your time, expressing love and care in various ways, then suddenly, it’s too late. That’s what Jesus was alluding to when he said that Mary had not waited until He died to express her love for Him. The time to express our love to our fellow brothers and sisters of God’s family is when they are still with us.
One Body—many Members
All true believers are members of the “universal” body of Christ, that in turn is made up many local bodies of Believers, called churches, spread around the world, each consisting of individual members, with a particular function to fulfill. Just as our physical body needs it’s members to play their individual roles, so it is with the body of Christ, the church, each member being a temple, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, ministering to each other, locally and beyond its walls. This is all part of the worship journey.
Your recall that this is what this study is titled, “The Worship Safari.” It is not an occasional, once a week expression of devotion, as is true for many. It is not the casually greeting fellow members of the body once a week. Worship is a journey of service. This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in the twelfth chapter of Romans. He admonishes the church at Rome to present their bodies as living sacrifices which is their “spiritual act of worship,” or “reasonable service.” There it is. We have been born again to serve. Born to Serve! Our service is “worship on the journey.”
We, worshipers, have all been recipients of care and love expressed by fellow members of the body, and we all are called to care for, to serve, to encourage, to lift up one another as part of our spiritual act of worship.
Two pairs of shoes
It was with mixed emotions that the missionary couple was now packing for their last trip back to America after having given thirty years of their lives in ministering to the natives of East Africa. Hearing someone calling, “Jambo, jambo,” at the door, they went to see who it was, and through the screen they saw an old native African man carrying a package. He looked vaguely familiar and as they invited him in they soon recognized him as someone they had led to the Lord years before in another part of the country. He told them that he had heard that they were leaving Africa and would not be returning and that he had brought them a gift of gratitude for having introduced him to his Savior.
After customary conversation about what was happening back home, in his family, church and village, with a bow, he handed the missionaries the two packages. Carefully untying the packages that were wrapped in Kitenge cloth, they found two pairs of shoes that he had made with his own hands; a pair for each of them. Though they could immediately see that these were shoes that neither of them would ever be able to wear, they were deeply moved by the gifts, knowing how much time and love had been put into what they were holding in their hands..
After expressing their profound thanks (“Asante kwa zawadi”) to their brother in Christ, they were soon to learn, when they asked him how he had travelled from his village, that he was giving them more than just the shoes.
“Dear brother, how did you travel here?”
“You have walked all the way from your village to bring us your gift?”
“But that is a three-day safari! And will you be walking back to your village?”
His response was one that they would never forget.
“Yes,” he replied. “You see, my safari is a part of my gift.” It’s a part of my gift.”
A part of his gift! We may not be led to make that kind of sacrificial gift, but we are all called to be the hands, the feet, the voice of our Lord in caring, loving, in affirming, and expressing gratitude to each other in the name of the One who gave His all for us. This is worship on the journey. This is the safari of worship. And like Mary’s offering of devotion, this African brother’s act of love is touching us today.
I gave away a smile today—it didn’t cost a thing,
And though it only was a smile it helped somebody sing.
I could have kept it to myself as I have often done,
Forgetting that such little things as smiles can help someone.
I gave away some time today to do a simple deed,
And though it really wasn’t much it helped someone in need.
I could have used the time for me and failed to pass the test,
Forgetting that it’s as we give that we ourselves are blessed.
A smile, some time, a bit of care,
A little love left here and there,
A word of hope to calm a fear,
A tender touch, a listening ear,
In daylight, night or early morn
The love of Jesus is reborn.
God spare me from self-centeredness—help me to center in on You.
Save me from self-promotion too.
Teach me to seek another’s good—the needs of others help me see.
From selfishness, Lord, set me free.
• Have you ever considered what we have discussed today to be a part of your worship?
• Is this an area the you need to grow in? Discuss.
Remember what Jesus said about this: “Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38)
WE ARE THE CHURCH
We have been chosen to be a Royal Priesthood
We are a people called to be God’s very own
We have been chosen to be a Holy Nation
We’ve been assigned to declare God’s praise alone
We’re Living Stones in a house that God is building
We have been placed in His family by New Birth
We are a body, each member with a function
We are the Church, we are God’s People here on earth
When one part hurts, that is when we all will suffer
When one’s in need, that is when we all will care
When one is honored, that’s when we all are honored
When one’s discouraged, that’s a burden we all share
Christ is the Head of the Church that He is building
He is the Lord, and He alone sits on The throne
We must submit to His will and serve each other
And by our love the world will know we are His own