In World War II, during the height of Nazi rule over Germany, there existed a church that sat on a hill a few hundred yards from the railroad tracks. These train tracks were regularly used to shuffle Jewish prisoners from one concentration camp to another. It so happened that one Sunday morning, while the church would start the praise and worship part of the service, a train for of prisoners would be scheduled to pass by. Even from miles away, the loud moans of pain and suffering would be heard from the Jews who in some ways already knew the this train ride was as a one way ticket to torture, slavery and eventual death.
More dreadful than this sad scenario was how the church responded. Every time they could begin to hear the train about to the pass from a distance, the pastor instructed the music team and the congregation to play and sing louder. The closer the train got, the louder they sang in the hopes that they would drown out the desperate cries for help. In some sense, they didn’t want to hear it because it interrupted their “worship”.
Today, I think of myself and us,—the “modern church” —and how, in many ways we also “play louder” to drown the sounds of a world in pain. Unlike the church in the story, most of us don’t shut the world out deliberately, instead we replace the world around us with the event of church.
Because there is a large emphasis on worship as a musical event rather that it being a daily offering our lives to Jesus, we have failed to make the connection that loving people can’t be disconnected from our love and worship of God.
Genuine worship requires that we seek the heart of God; and we don’t need to rack our brains to know that the heart of God is ever beating for people, specially those that the new testament describes as the “least among us”. Those that have been victims of injustice, those in poverty, those who are suffering, the lonely, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, these are who God is moved by.
There is a place for our songs, our liturgy and our celebration, but they only belong within the greater context of what worship really is, our love for God, ultimately expressed in the way God wants it to be expressed, our love for people.
Original article published on Go! Without Walls newsletter, 2007