Reconciled Worship
By Anthony Casperson

“No, it can’t be.”

I stared at the tiny thumbnail image of a sermon on a church’s YouTube channel. The preacher pictured wasn’t the senior pastor of the church, who often preaches the weekly sermons. Nor was it the teaching pastor who preaches most of the other weeks. And it certainly wasn’t the usual other preachers within their church’s network of pastors. No, this guy looked like a professor I had in bible college.

One of whom I do not have very fond memories.

I could list out the justifications of my dislike—and trust me, if it were last week, I would’ve done that very thing when mentioning him—but such words would invalidate the rest of this blog.

For those reasons, when I saw the image, I wanted to not watch the sermon. But that doubt of the person preaching not actually being him made me click on the video. I mean, what were the chances that this professor I had nearly 20 years ago would know this preacher that I regularly watch—and I think is a part of an entirely different denomination?

Apparently 100%

Because his introduction just before the sermon indicated the man by name. As well, the voice brought back memories that I’d tried to forget. And the guy didn’t even look like he’d aged over those years.

With my finger reaching to pause the video so that I could then turn it off, something stopped me. I felt a deep anger and repulsion that I didn’t know I had in me. The realization that something this disgusting had festered in my heart—toward another created image of God and brother in Christ—made me stop myself. And listen.

The plan—before even seeing the video’s thumbnail—had been that shortly after listening to this sermon, I was going to record a sermon of my own for Brushstrokes of a Theonerd. But could I really worship God through the preaching of his word, with this atrocious sin so obvious to me? Could I, in good conscious, speak forth the words of God when I held back such hatred toward one loved by that same God?

Matthew 5:22-24 came to my mind. These words of Jesus speak to how anyone angry at their brother is held liable for judgement. Such negative attitudes toward a fellow follower of Jesus should not be a thing that any us do.

And then Jesus gives an example of how to deal with things when we find ourselves in such a situation. He uses the world of the Jewish people to whom he was speaking, but we can use the illustration to apply it to us today. Specifically, Jesus says that if a person were just about to offer a sacrifice on the altar in the temple, only to then realize that they had sinned against a brother, then the person should leave their sacrifice at the altar and reconcile with their brother and return to the sacrifice once the situation had been dealt with.

So, we could say that if we’re about to serve and worship God in any way, and then realize that we had sinned against a brother or sister in Jesus, we should then seek reconciliation as best as we can before returning to serve God. The anger and hatred impedes our worship in such a way that our best recourse is to seek a restoration of relationship with the person before we stand ready to serve the holy God.

It doesn’t matter what kind of worshipful service we intend to do—whether that be spending time alone with God, singing his praise, spending time in fellowship with others, or even preaching the word—our best can only come when we’ve dealt with the frayed relationship with our brother or sister.

As far as my story goes, I don’t know this brother’s current address, and he seems to live in another state far away. So, directly going to him and asking for forgiveness wasn’t possible. Thus, I did what seemed to be the most appropriate possibility, given the circumstances. I prayed right then and there that God would forgive me for the hatred in my heart. That he could root it out and help me call this man a beloved brother once again. And that God would him and the ministry he does.

Letting the sermon’s video keep playing, I listened to the whole thing. Though I’ll tell you that I heard a very different sermon than anybody else who’d ever watch the video. And then, after reconciling to the best of my ability, returned to my planned worship of God through recording my own preached sermon.

I don’t tell this story to pat myself on the back. Realizing my sin after decades doesn’t deserve that. And I certainly am not trying to look better than I am. This blog would’ve never been written if I wanted that.

My reason in sharing this is to remind us all that any one of us can have deeply archived sin festering in us. Something that just needs the right intrusion to prod it to the surface. And then—hopefully—be excised out like the spiritual cancer that it is.

Let’s consider what we’re holding on to in the recesses of our hearts, what sins we’ve allowed to hide in the darkest shadows, and then seek reconciliation as best as we can with those whom our sins have wronged.

And afterward, be free to return to our worship of God.