If you’ve ever worked with a good salesperson, you’ve probably walked out spending more than you originally planned. They offer options that you hadn’t considered and they make them so attractive. You have to get the two-toned seats on the car because they’ll be cooler in summer than the regular black seats, right? Go to a foreign country where you can bargain about the prices, and it’s a cut-throat deal making environment. Every merchant is trying to lure you into their stall in the market. One of anything isn’t enough, you can get a discount if you buy two, or more. It’s loud and noisy and crowded. Thinking isn’t allowed, your emotions take over and the merchant can see the desire in your eyes and he’s counting on the sale even before you think you’ve decided.
Sometimes that final sale comes down to deciding that the extra dollar or two is ok to spend because you’ve traveled all that way, and you might not make it back again. For pilgrims in ancient Israel, the trip to worship at the Temple may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As a pilgrim, you wanted everything just right. As you brought your lamb in to sacrifice, your dreams were shattered: someone told you that your lamb was blemished. They pulled back the wool to show you the blemish, and it must have been there, because, this was the Temple after all, and so, when the lamb inspector offered to take your lamb in trade towards a perfect, unblemished lamb, with a small additional fee, you’d appreciate their kindness and dip into your funds so that you could experience the joy of Temple worship. “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.” (Mark 11:15-16)
Jesus had entered the Temple area on the night that He entered Jerusalem. I think He was disturbed by all the evidence of the buying and selling, because the next day, He began by clearing out the Temple and running those selling animals and changing money from local currency into Temple currency out of the place. His ire was raised and He reminded them that the purpose of the Temple was to be a house of prayer and with all the bargaining, the sounds of animals, the smells, and all the accompanying commotion, there was no way to pray earnestly and seek God. For a day, for a short time, Jesus changed the atmosphere in the Temple. The leaders didn’t like it – the economy was disrupted, but they didn’t do anything because the people believed the teachings of Jesus. All they could do was plot against Him.
It’s easy to get distracted when we worship. There is such a joy in worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, though, I’m grateful that our church has two worship services. I have responsibilities in both of those services, and I get so worried about doing things just right, that the first service isn’t worship for me, it’s worry time. Did I get things right? Do I need to make changes? Sometimes we get caught up in the coffee and snacks. Sometimes we get caught up in the good fellowship that’s an important part of our church. In the end, though, do we get caught up in worship. I hope you serve in some way in your church. That’s important. But as you serve, don’t get caught up in the hubbub of the actions of service in such a way that you can’t focus on worship. Don’t forget to keep you focus and attention on God as you sing, as you pray and as you hear His word preached. Think not of the beauty of the music, nor the eloquence of the words of the sermon, instead, think of the greatness of the One who brought you together.
Oh Lord, in all that happens while I’m at church, let me keep my focus on You and worship You only.