It doesn't seem to occur to us, when church is taking a little longer than we think it should, that God might have shown up. It didn't occur to the Jews when Zechariah was slow to come out of the Most Holy Place, and it doesn't occur to us when we're watching the seconds tick away toward lunch.
Perhaps that is because we have forgotten the most fundamental truth about this place to where we go on Sunday mornings: this is God's church, not ours.
The church is God's house, not ours.
This was particularly true in the time of Zechariah, when the priest was serving at the actual Temple - the place where God said He would dwell among His people. It was particularly true in the very time in which the people did not at all seem to consider that God might have shown up in that Most Holy Place. Why wouldn't He have? That was His living room.
Who would ever dream of walking into God's living room and not finding Him there?
It would seem bizarre to most of us, I would think, if we were sitting in our homes and had a dear, close friend walk in. But our friend does not acknowledge us or talk to us. Instead, our friend walks right past where we are sitting, lights one of candles, and says a few words about how great we are and how blessed they feel to have us as a friend and how they hope we keep being a friend to them for a long time to come. Then, still not having spoken a single word to us or even looking in our direction, our friend walks out and closes the door.
It would be weird, right? Yet, this is what we are doing every Sunday in our churches. We are walking into God's house without acknowledging His actual presence, lighting a candle, singing a few songs, saying a few prayers, talking about how blessed we are to have Him and how we hope He keeps pouring out His blessings in our lives. But not actually talking to Him. Not actually acknowledging His presence.
Then, we stand up, shake hands with someone else, walk out, and close up the doors until next Sunday, when we will walk into God's house and do it all over again.
I'm going to tell you - it's no less bizarre to God when it happens in His house than it would be to us if it happened in ours.
See, in all our planning for our Sunday services, in our meticulous crafting of our order of worship, in the painstaking choosing of just the right worship songs, in the recruitment of a harmonious set of speakers and pray-ers and ushers and servers, we start to think that somehow, this is our party. That this is our event that we're putting on. That we determine how this whole thing goes.
But this is God's house; this church is God's church. And He is the one who determines how this whole thing goes, no matter how much planning we put into it.
Why does that keep surprising us?
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