Ruthie and I were recently sitting in a church service and the worship leader began to lead the congregation singing softly, “Holy Spirit, You are welcome in this place…(repeat) Omnipotent Father of mercy and grace, You are welcome in this place.” (If you know the song, I invite you to pause reading and sing it softly right now.)
It was a powerful moment. I mean, many times before we’ve been in places where that little chorus was being sung, but this time we sensed an intensity in the worshipers that spoke powerfully to us. We have all sung with our brains in neutral; we did not do that this day.
I don’t wish to be melodramatic here, but it was almost as though we could sense His response and hear Him say, “Yes, I am here. Thank you for the invitation. I love it here. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
The service continued, but the reality of the nearness of the One we were singing to didn’t go away. We sensed it in the Scripture reading. We felt it in the music that followed. We heard it in the passionate proclamation of the Word. When the service ended it seemed there was almost a corporate reluctance to leave the worship center. Out of our hunger we had reached out for His presence; out of His grace He had answered. We were reminded that nothing transforms us like the presence of God.
I thought back of the times I had worshiped unengaged. I had come as though to a meeting. Predictably, it would have a beginning, a middle and an end and I hoped they wouldn’t be too far apart. There were folks up front leading us, and I sat in judgment on how well they had done. “He should have read that over ahead of time; she has a really nice voice; he looks like he slept in that jacket…” And I missed it. God was no doubt there, but it didn’t move my needle. I went away as empty as I had come.
But to ask and then acknowledge that He is there changes us. We’re not just singing about Him, we’re singing to Him. We are not just listening to someone read a book, we are listening to the very heart of God. He whispers, “Remember, this is My day, this is My house, these are My people. I have invited you here because I know what happens when you and I get together. My son, my daughter, you are welcome in this place.”
By Don Jacobsen