The Privilege of Worship
As many of you know, I recently returned from doing ministry in Russia. One day while I was there, I spent some time with a pastor and his wife who have been in ministry much longer than I have. They first started in the underground church.
“Oh, wow,” I said. “Tell me more about that. What was that like?”
They began to share about their experiences, speaking with care and respect. There was no bitterness or guile in their voices as they told me how it was illegal for them to assemble in those days. They had a secret word they would use to let people know the church was meeting on a certain day. The word didn’t tell anyone precisely where or what time, but believers would pass this word around, and when the day came, they would wander into the woods outside Moscow, trying to find the rest of the congregation.
I got to see those woods. The trees outside Moscow all look like birch trees to me, with beautiful white bark lined with black. They are smaller than some of the massive pillars you find here in California, but they grow up very close to one another, so the woods are dense. The believers would head out beneath the trees and walk around in the snow until they found one another and could begin to worship.
Obviously, the political environment at the time didn’t favor them, so they were afraid to raise their voices. They worshiped without sound. Bundled up in furs and layers of thick clothing, they clapped silently and only mouthed their words.
Political Freedom to Worship
As I listened to this pastor and his wife talk about what the underground Russian church had been like, I thought, My goodness.
In the United States, we don’t always remember to be grateful for the level of privacy and protection we have. If we want to worship the Lord, we just do it. If we want to ride a bus and praise God, if we want to carry our Bibles out in public, we do it. We might get mocked a little or people look at us funny, but we get to do what we want to do without fear of being arrested and stripped of our assets or having our homes invaded.
It is a precious, precious thing to worship the Lord.
A Common Language
On this trip, I experienced a culture completely different than my own. Our history here in the United States is unlike that of Russia. Yet I found myself in relationship with people who shared a common “language” and value with me. We got to honor and worship the Lord; we loved Jesus and praised Him together.
Our times of worship in Russia were loud because worshiping the Lord is no longer against the law there—as long as you’re in the appropriate location. You can’t talk about Jesus in your home, but you can worship God in a state-approved church.
We followed the rules with respect and honor, and we worshiped the Lord.
Practicing Gratitude for What You Have
Wherever we live—in Russia, Amsterdam, Mexico, the United States, or anywhere else—we have the privilege of raising our worship. If we can be loud and rowdy, if we can hold conferences and events outside state-approved churches, we get to do so with thankfulness. If we’re in places where being a follower of Jesus is not favored, so we have to worship the Lord with quiet applause, breathing our words soundlessly, we still get to do so with thankfulness. That is how good we have it in Christ.
May God bless your Prosperous Soul.