At St. Sulpice this morning, enjoying one of the most impressive organs in the world, it was the altar there and reminded me anew: worshiping God in church on Sunday is the most important thing we do all week.
The beautifully and carefully formed gold candlesticks on the altar are impossibly ornate. It’s not my favorite look or style, but even a commoner like me, not at all first in metalworks can see they are excellently executed, carefully formed, beautiful.
Churches in the past weren’t built as “seconds,” metalworkers didn’t donate their mistakes or castoffs or hurriedly constructed pieces to their church, they gave their best. If any, seconds went to their customers, because the only one who could ever offer payment with eternal consequence is God.
In the Eucharistic prayer (said together, with the priests voice, over the bread and wine every Sunday), “we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies” – we are saying that our bodies, our lives, our very selves, aren’t things that we’ll cling to, grasp, spend for our own enjoyment, glory, but pour out for God. We are committing to give our very best efforts to God, just like 17th-century metalworkers.
Our call as disciples of Jesus, then, is to give our best, and to exhort and help our fellow disciples give their best, most sincere, most excellent offering they can.
We are to spur each other on to learning, training, practice, sincerity, and devotion in everything we take on.
Half prepared, or hurriedly completed, or insincerely devoted efforts are not things God wants.
God does not want unstudied worship, distracted bodies, lazy or hardened or impenitent hearts. One way to understand Cain’s unacceptable offering is that God knew Cain’s heart, and it was not sincere, prepared, devoted to true, full worship.
We practice, learn, test, and assess our worship as we do other parts of our lives because we believe our offerings of our souls and bodies, their condition and sincerity, makes a difference to God.
God cares whether we’ve truly, sincerely committed our work and effort fully to his glory–whether we really mean it and live what we pray, that “we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice” to God.
God seeks to work through us as Christ’s body, the Church; all parts working together, working the most intently and sincerely possible, is the only way to fully serve our Lord.