Her hands are small and frail. They show every one of her ninety-three years, although she wears each year beautifully. Today her nails are painted hot pink from her first ever mani-pedi, which she received as a gift during her latest visit to Texas. She sits next to me in church and I grab her delicate hand and hold it tight as we sing. She and I, worshipping the Lord together.
It is a rare occasion when she comes in from Kentucky to visit her Texan grandchildren, and me, her grand-daughter-in-law, I guess. She is Chris’ dad’s mom, so there’s no quick word to describe her relation to me, but you wouldn’t know that by the way she treats me, as if I were one of her own. She squeezes my hand back and smiles at me. I wish there was some way I could soak in everything she must know just by holding her hand.
I can tell she feels at home in our small, make-shift church that meets in the cafeteria of a local elementary school. She hugs the people we introduce her to and sways gently to the songs, many of which are too contemporary for her to even know, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Although far from home, she worships the Lord as if she is right at home. I feel the Lord instructing me as I watch her, “This right here, this is the kind of worship I seek.” I thought about that the rest of the day.
She was here for just a one night visit this time around. Chris’ dad had driven her in from Kentucky for a quick visit with several different parts of the family. When our turn came on Saturday all three boys had been sick. I tried my best to keep it all together, but the preparations for all the family coming in town, along with the sick boys and late hours for Chris at the office that week must have left me looking haggard, because that night before she went up to our guest bedroom, she grabbed my hand. Grandma said to me, “Don’t you worry if those boys are sick again tonight and we can’t make it to church in the morning. You know we love going with you all, but I remember how it is with young children. So you don’t worry too hard about getting us to church, we can always just head back to Kentucky first thing in the morning and then we’ll just stop somewhere along the way.”
Her words came back to me later Sunday evening after the house cleared out and the boys were in bed.
“We’ll just stop somewhere along the way.”
Grandma Lacy simply would have found any old church in any old small town they were passing through and stopped there to worship the Lord that Sunday morning. She had no need for any specific place of worship, no concern for denomination or dress code and although she would have liked to have been with us, she didn’t need to be with us to worship Him. She could be at home anywhere because He was her home.
As I mulled over her words, I thought of the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman in John chapter four. The history between the Samaritans and the Jews was a contemptuous one. Samaritans were the result of intermarriages between Jews and Gentiles. These “mixed marriages” resulted in the Jews taking on some of the pagan idols of the Gentiles they married. Full-blooded, monotheistic Jews detested the mixed marriages and worship of the Samaritans. The hatred and bitterness between the groups seethed for over 500 years, so much so that when Jesus arrived at a water well while passing though Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, his disciples “marveled” that he was speaking with her, seeing as the Jews were still said to “have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). The animosity between the two groups ran deep.
The complexity of the situation was not lost on the Samaritan woman. She was aware that there were more than a few reasons why Jesus should not be in a conversation with her and she was quick to point out their differences.
John 4:19 The woman said to him… 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
The Samaritan woman brings up the ancient grudge between her people and the Jews and her basic argument is this: “We do things this way, you do things that way.” (This argument might sound familiar to you.) And although the dissension between the two groups could not be denied, Jesus is quick to tell her that she’s missing the point.
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Today, just like millenniums ago, we may quibble and squabble over the particulars of worship – the size of the building, the amount of cushion in the chair, contemporary songs or traditional hymns, drums or no drums…but Jesus tells us that the particulars of worship is indifferent. There are only two things that are essential to true worship – that when we worship, we do so in spirit and in truth. So, the emphasis is not to be placed upon how or where we worship God, but upon the state of mind in which we worship him. The book of Hebrews further enlightens this text for us, it says
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
When we worship we are to do so with a pure heart, fully assured of the work He has done for us, with sincerity and out of love and adoration for the God who saved us. Nothing more is required of us. Somewhere along the way, Grandma Lacy had learned this lesson and allowed it to take root in her heart. Without even knowing it, she passed it along to me.
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