During our 26 hours in London last summer on our return home from Kharkov, Ukraine, Carrie-Anne and I became quite comfortable riding the underground trains. Everything was clearly labeled, simple to find, not that big of a deal at all. I found myself especially intrigued by the “Mind the Gap” signs that were everywhere: in the stations, at the ticket counters, along the turnstiles, in the que, and even on the trains themselves. “Mind the Gap.” The friendly female voice on the recorded information messages reminded us at every stop to “mind the gap.”
See, there’s a gap between the train platform and the train itself. It’s no more than three or four inches across. It’s nothing really. I don’t think I ever would have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out to me. Sometimes there’s a two or three inch difference in height, too, where the platform and the train come together. And, apparently, people were tripping on the gap and hurting themselves. So, a public service announcement program was born.
“Mind the Gap.” T-shirts. Billboards. Signs. Coffee mugs and computer mouse pads. “Mind the Gap.” Pay attention to the gap. Don’t forget the gap. Watch out for the gap. Don’t trip up on the gap.
There’s a gap between what we’re attempting to do in corporate worship each Sunday morning and what we’re actually doing. There’s a serious difference between who we are and who God is. When we gather to worship, there’s a canyon of contrast, a black hole of incongruity when it comes to what we think we’re doing and what’s actually taking place.
For a couple of weeks now, Kevin (Central’s amazing worship minister) and I have been planning my first Sunday. We’re less than two weeks away. We’re planning the songs. We’re planning the Scripture readings. We’re planning the prayers. The order. The communion service. The elders’ charge to me as the new preacher here. The appreciation we plan to show the search committee. We want it to be perfect. We want it to flow seamlessly. We want everything to work. We pray over it. We worry about it. We work it and re-work it together. Song and sermon and prayer and holy communion. God must be glorified and his children must be inspired. Song and prayer and sermon and communion. Do it again. We must take our people straight to his throne. We must pour ourselves out to our Father. Song and prayer, Word and table.
Even as we meticulously plan, I’m mindful of the gap.
What must our worship efforts look like to our holy God? Are they pitiful? Misguided? Sad? Shallow? Tragically funny? Do we miss the point entirely?
Annie Dillard wrote, “In two thousand years, we have not worked out the kinks. We positively glorify them. Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter.”
I am always mindful of the gap. As I prepare sermons and dare to speak a Word from God to his people, I think about the gap. As I attempt to tie our table time directly to that Word each Sunday with a neatly composed prayer or a perfectly placed passage of Scripture, I remember the gap.
It’s there. I’m aware of it. But because of God’s matchless grace, I will not be tripped up by it. I won’t let it stop me from doing my best to please him and to encourage his people. Our Father smiles at our best and honest efforts, no matter how eternally foolish they may ultimately be. Mind the gap, yes. Be aware of it. But do not allow it to be a hurdle or a barrier between us and God. His patience is unlimited. His grace is beyond measure. His love for us is too great to adequately describe. And it renders the gap powerless against us.