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Topic: Paths (05/17/04)
TITLE: The Beaten Path to a Place of Worship
By Melanie Kerr
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The “boy” could have been any one of five hundred pupils at the high school. Not surly or badly behaved boys, they were just a little lazy at times.
The “grass” was not as large as a football field, or as small as a tennis court, but somewhere in between. It separated the main school building from three lines of prefabricated huts. These classrooms, which were intended to be a temporary solution to an increase in the school population, became permanent fixtures. You froze in the winter months and baked during the summer. A chewing gum studded path ran all the way around the edge of the grass, with another path neatly dissecting the green in two.
The “voice” belonged to another permanent fixture of the school. The deputy head of the school was not a physically big man. He had a huge voice that gave you plenty of warning that he was nearby. It was a voice that demanded instant obedience.
Years later, as the huts remained fixed in place the deputy head didn’t. He retired and continued to turn up as a relief teacher every so often. He also continued to coach the athletics team. His replacement was a woman, pleasant and mild mannered, who rarely yelled at anyone to get off the grass.
It did not take long before new paths were created as the pupils cut across the corners of the field. Made by hundreds of pairs of trainers scuffing away the grass, these unofficial paths were muddy in the winter when it rained and dry and dusty trails in the summer. Ever summer the janitor optimistically sprinkled grass seed over them believing that a six-week summer holiday was sufficient time to restore the missing grass. Eventually, being a practical man he put down paving stones.
Moses in the wilderness followed God’s instructions to build a tent of meeting, the tabernacle. Every place they settled, the tabernacle was pitched some distance away from the camp. I would like to think that a path, between the camp and the tent of meeting, was beaten as hundreds and thousands of Israelites flocked to spend time with God. I don’t think it happened that way. Exodus chapter 33 tells us that Moses and his young assistant Joshua were regular visitors. The rest of the Israelites stood at the entrances to their own tents and watched at a distance. As the cloud of God’s glory enveloped the tabernacle the people stood and worshipped “each at the entrance to his tent”. They were quite content for Moses to be the go between and pass on what God was saying. A passion to make their own path to the tabernacle and talk to God for themselves seemed to be absent.
I have to ask myself whether I am any different from those Israelites. Do I have a beaten path to a place of worship before God? Yes, I turn up every Sunday and I sing lustily, if not a little out of tune, every song that is thrown up onto the screen. I meekly bow my head as prayers sound out to the heavens above. I might even lift my hands in the air, or bow the knee in reverence. I don’t just go through the motions. I worship. I am there in the throne room of God.
What happens when I am on my own? In my day to day life, on a Monday or a Saturday or any other day of the week, is there still a beaten path to a place of worship? When I am busy with housework, while the hoover drones, is there a still beaten path to a place of worship? When I am at work, amid the chalk dust and the red pens, is there still a beaten path to a place of worship? The path becomes beaten only with frequent use. Frequent use isn’t just once in a while, or when an emergency strikes. Frequent use probably isn’t just once a day. Frequent use is often and all the time.
Both Moses and Joshua did incredible things, because they were often in the company of an incredible God. Who among us does not yearn to do incredible things for God? Let’s start beating a path to a place of worship in our daily lives.