I scan the bulletin to glimpse today’s topic –WHAT IS WORSHIP?
“Humph; this should be interesting.”
“Are you talkin’ to me?”
“Uh, no…” I recognize the kid – Jacob is his name, I think – part of the worship team. I glance at his ponytail and faded jeans and wrinkle my nose. “…I was mumbling about the sermon theme. Hope our pastor has some thoughts about that caterwauling they call music. Whatever is wrong with the old hymns? And you would think mothers would stay home with their babies if they can’t keep them quiet…”
Jacob shrugs and backs away. His eyes are glazed over.
I shake my head and search for a seat in back where I can observe the congregation. Before I claim my spot, a band of thugs, lugging sound equipment, sweeps past me. Chatty Carla Banks waves a brass horn in the air. I am about to chide them when…THUNK.
My head hurts. I sink and darkness swirls around me in layers like a shroud.
Hearing distant voices, my eyes flutter open.
“Lady? You are lady sent by God, no?”
Eyes like glass marbles stare at me from a scarred ebony face. A necklace of pointed teeth clinks together around the bearer’s naked chest. From close by, the scent of dung and body odor makes me gag.
I sputter. "No, I'm Alma."
“My name Bernard,” he says. Grinning, he offers his hand and pulls me to my feet. “We go now.”
“Where?” I ask, to the feverish thump of native drums.
“To make our Jesus happy.”
“I…I don’t understand.”
“Come…I show.” He tugs at me and sheepishly I follow.
The drum beat grows louder as we weave closer to our destination. Tall grass slaps at my face and stings my arms, leaving red slashes on my pale skin. We arrive at a clearing. Men and woman are jumping, in pogo-stick fashion, chanting in rhythm with a foreign tongue. Though the words elude me, I feel the spirit of happiness. The faces of these worshippers erupt with joy.
“What are they saying?” I ask my guide.
Bernard, bouncing in place, turns to me. “They say:
‘Thank you, Jesus; you are good.
Jesus, we love you.
Jesus, we come today to make your heart glad.’”
His face shines. “Worship,” he says, “make God happy.”
My eyes brim with tears and I sense the wetness on my face.
“I think she’s coming to,” says a voice I recognize before my eyes quiver open. Bending over me, Jacob’s brows are knit together. Carla Banks dabs a dampened rag over my cheeks and forehead.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you in front of me,” she gushes, her face an explosion of apology. “I’m such a klutz; they shouldn’t let me carry anything.”
I rub the knot on my head and sit upright. “It’s okay. It was an accident.”
Jacob takes my elbow, eases me to my feet and leads me to a nearby seat.
I feel the heat rise in my face when I realize I am delaying the service. The concerned and curious drift off to find their places and the music begins to play. It is not an old hymn. Some of the congregation sway to the chorus or clap while others lift their hands. Their faces look happy.
A baby’s giggle catches my ear. I look, and nearby, she perches on the hip of her mother, her little body writhing in glee. Together, mom and baby dance in place.
I join the singing.
“…I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart…”
The words burn into my spirit and by degrees I lift my hands. I glance from the words on the overhead to the stage, meeting Jacob’s eyes. He strums his guitar and grins at me. I beam a smile in return. Lifting my gaze to heaven, I wave my hands above my head. My voice cracks and pitches as I continue singing but I don’t care.
“…I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus…” (Song by Michael W. Smith)
With a lowered hand I massage the blessed bump and chuckle, for today, I realize, we are making God happy.
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