You KNOW you’ve preached or heard a sermon and you were like…I sure hope So-And-So is listening closely today! The funny thing about being human is that we’ve all got blind spots. It’s so easy to see someone else’s blind spot. And then you get so frustrated that they never seem to change no matter how well the pastor’s sermon or bible study seems to hammer home what’s wrong with that guy.
The problem is, we’re usually so busy hoping the other person will listen to the message and change that we don’t take the time to find our own blind spots. Think of it as the splinter vs. log in the eye approach to worship.
Worship often does a great job of unifying us in the moment. We gather together for an audience of One, and the Holy Spirit unites us in beautiful and powerful ways. Today’s comic features William Seymour, the founder of the Pentecostal movement. Seymour was a young, black preacher in the Holiness tradition, (an offshoot of John Wesley’s Methodism), who moved to Los Angeles in 1906. The son of freed slaves in the height of Jim Crow America and before women had voting rights, Seymour led the first truly egalitarian congregation at Azusa Street. Seymour was soft-spoken in his sermons, but his message was constantly the equality of all men and women in the Holy Spirit. The Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street quickly became a place where men and women shared equal leadership, where Blacks, Whites, Hispanics and Asians worshipped together as equals. Most spoke in glossolalia, an unintelligible language believed to be the Holy Spirit. A unity was experienced in worship there that was unprecedented in Western society, and has been difficult to maintain since.
Seymour once wrote these words to help his new community figure out how to live together:
“Let us be deeply sensible of the evil of a division in principle, spirit or practice, and the dreadful consequences to ourselves and others. If we are united, what can stand before us? If we divide, we shall destroy ourselves, and the work of God, and the souls of our people (Gal. 5:15-17). In order to have a closer union with each other: 1) Let us be deeply convinced of the absolute necessity of it. 2) Pray earnestly for and speak freely to each other. 3) When we meet let us never part without prayer. 4) Take great care not to despise each other’s gifts. 5) Never speak lightly of each other. 6) Let us defend each other’s character in everything so far as is consistent with truth. 7) Labor in honor each to prefer the other before himself.”
I wish Seymour’s story had a happy ending, but society at large, and most of the rest of the church, rejected such radical integrations a “disgraceful intermingling of the races” (LA Times, 9/1906). Seymour faced a ton of conflict and eventually died of a heart attack (9/28./22). His wife, Jennie became the leader of the congregation after that.
Worship is a training ground for everyday life in the Spirit. If we know that the Comforter has come, then we can trust the God goes before us, preparing the way towards true unity in real relationships with others. So the next time you’re getting’ your praise on, remember that Spirit is meant to connect you and reconcile you to others just as much as to God. Then take the log out of your eye and get to work!