“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full on his wonderful face.
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.”
Each of these passages has come to life for me in a new way. After a church service like I just witnessed it makes sense. The biggest difference between American worship and Ugandan worship can be summed up in one word: humility.
We want it. I feel like we are striving, fighting, even at times white knuckling a humble heart, but if it’s taking all that can we really say we’ve got a hold of humility? I wasn’t sure what I was expecting in this service, but it wasn’t this.
Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the tambourine,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
The crowd of one hundred or so showed up in their absolute best clothes. We gathered under a tent. The worship team took turns leading songs, so it was never about any one person. They danced. Moving nonstop in their praise. Their mics crackled. Their voices cracked and not in the southern Texas way. Their children sat in a group altogether without any adult supervision and just sat or sang or chatted with their neighbor friends. Pastor Tucker stood to speak a word, and then broke out the next song. One of our girls said it was like a musical. Talking and then suddenly everyone is singing the same song. The pastor called us up to welcome us—guests from America.
When God went out against Egypt,
he established it as a statute for Joseph.
I heard an unknown voice say:
“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
“Now, you’ve flown 32 hours to be with us, so we are going to believe you have a word for us. We will wait,” Pastor Tucker threw out nonchalantly to a group of sweaty travelers. Honestly, I think we were all a bit shell shocked at the first three hours of church to even ask God to give us words. But slowly we tuned into some nuggets of wisdom God had been dropping in each of our hearts over the past several days. But, we shared. Just as we thought church was coming to a close, round two began. We are already five hours in at this point. And you know what’s the weirdest part?
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
That dude didn’t once apologize for any of it. Not for putting us on the spot. Not for calling us out when he asked us to share and we only introduced ourselves. Not for the heat or the tent or the broken mic or the kids talking or going hours over what we expected. He just presented this is what we do on a Sunday because all that matters on this holy day is honoring God with our whole lives.
It made me feel small and enormous all at once. It made me want to stop worrying about Sunday morning service routine and the order of events and look Jesus full in the face and say, “You’ve come all this way. What word do you have for me? For us? I’ll wait.”
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.