Imperfect Worship, Perfect Grace
"Imperfect Worship" is the title of this sermon.
I begin by
asking, how is your imperfect worship going this morning? And how are you,
ever considered this fact: on this side of Christ, no one has ever engaged in
perfect worship? No one. Not one.
we are all imperfect, and so our worship will always be imperfect too. “All
have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”
you had to go through a Perfection Scan to get into this sanctuary for worship
this morning, sort of like you got through to get on an airplane?
have a preacher, that’s for sure. I’m overweight. I’m
an imperfect speaker, prone to flub words. I’m not the most eloquent of
pray-ers. I’m what they call, neurodivergent. I’m forgetful and often
disorganized. When I was a chaplain years ago, I once forgot a graveside
service I was supposed to officiate. Almost had a nervous breakdown. I found
out that funeral directors, thankfully, are prepared for things like that. Still,
I was horrified. Still am.
But I’d dare
say, you all are beautiful people, but you wouldn’t get through that Perfection
Scan either! Not even the choir would. There’d be an empty sanctuary every Sunday.
sanctuary is a powerful place, but we don’t suddenly all become perfect once we
enter it. Worship is a powerful practice, but we don’t suddenly all become
perfect once engage in it.
remind ourselves what worship is. At basis, worship is the practice of being
present for and with God, and looking to God and God’s grace with gratitude in
our hearts. When I enter worship, I leave behind any focus on myself alone.
Narcissists have a hard time worshiping God because of this! I leave behind any
focus on another human. Lovebirds or haters have a hard time worshipping God,
too, focused too much on the one they love or hate. Instead of focusing on
myself alone or another alone, the focus becomes on God and our relationship to
God and on God’s relationship to us. I leave the world of me and mine behind
and turn my eyes toward Jesus and on our connection to Jesus, the Perfect One.
we, the imperfect, worship God, look toward God’s Perfect Grace which excepts
us just the way we are. That is what Sunday mornings are all about! That is why
we are here!
question arises – what do we do with our imperfections amid worship? What do we
do with the fact that I flub words when I preach? What do we do when I unknowingly
say the wrong thing? What do we do when the hymn singing is not going perfectly
well? What do we do when there is peripheral noise around us and we have
trouble hearing the sermon? What do we do with our internal distractions that
get in the way of us focusing solely on God? What do we do when Sunday service
just feels off?
answer is pretty straightforward. We remember why we are here! In fact, we
might see those distractions as a reminder to remember why we are. We, imperfect
as we are, are here to humbly worship. We’ll always worship imperfectly, and
that is okay.
The point is
not us. The aim is God.
toward God, mind, body, and spirit. We turn toward God, wading in the wonders
of God’s perfect grace and in the wondrous light of God’s perfect compassion.
once wrote, “there’s cracks in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
paraphrase it this way - There’s cracks in everything; that’s how the grace
of imperfection, the reality of cracks in everything, opens us up to the absolute
need for God’s grace to flood into us.
weekly, my two younger brothers would beat each other up in the back seat.
Remember that silly game, Punch-Buggy? It involved those VW Beatles, dubbed
Bugs. The game basically amounted to, see a VW Bug, punch your brother. This
game was usually reserved for long trips. That’s probably when my brothers
learned it. But they took away any limits to it, playing it on short rides too.
Fights would ensue even on the way to church.
thing. When you’re looking for those ugly, imperfect Bugs, you’ll begin seeing
them everywhere. Seek a bug, and you shall find a bug. VW Beatles weren’t any
rarer than, say, Dodge Darts. But my brothers saw them a lot more. Why? Because
they were always in wait for one, so they could punch their brother.
You see the
connection, I think. The more you look and search and give in to the imperfect
bug’s hold, the more prominent those imperfections will become. It’s the
proverbial snowball effect. Imperfections accumulate and gather steam as they
roll through your mind.
I come to a
close with a couple related questions – How to stop this vicious cycle? How to
halt the pain and power of the imperfect bug?
Try this – Obverse
the graceful landscape instead. Notice the sun-drenched blue heavens. Look to
the beautiful hills from whence comes our help. Look to the swaying of trees and
the gentle wind. Look to God and God’s gifts instead of looking for the
And when you
find yourself moved and inspired by the worshipful moment, internally say to
your brother, I love you.
mind’s eye begins noticing and latching on to those imperfect bugs that certainly
will arise, do the same. Internally say to your sibling, brother or sister, I
I end with
this undeniable truth – I will flub words. I won’t think something through
adequately. My prayers will include “ums” and pauses.
musicians will miss notes, sing out of tune, enter at the wrong time.
You in the
pews will lose attention. Your mind will wander away from here to work tomorrow
or lunch later. You will get distracted by activity around us or imperfections you
notice. You might even take a nap.
cracks in everything.
grace is a tender light meant to seep through those cracks in us and enlighten
our spirits. That’s why those cracks are there. To help us move past ourselves.
To help us let go of our attachment to what’s wrong around us. To let the light