Whenever we go on vacation, I usually enjoy two trips: the one we actually experience, and the one I plan beforehand. Most of the time they are quite different; but I do, truthfully, enjoy both. In planning, I scout out possible lodgings, things to do, places to see—often down to meticulous detail—all the while knowing there will likely be changes. Sometimes these changes are frustrating: like when the vacation condo I’d booked in Spain was nothing like the brochure promised (a micro-apartment with bedbugs inside, drug deals outside and a dead bird floating in the scummy water of the pool). Sometimes the changes are terrific: like when we decided on a whim to take a three-hour detour in on the way to Utah to see Wallowa Lake (it’s worth it!). The thing is, what I have in my mind, what I plan, doesn’t always happen. I expect the unexpected. And I get a new trip, doubling my pleasure.
Patty and I just spent a week on Maui, celebrating our 40th anniversary which just happened to fall on Easter (My wonderful, fore-bearing congregation letting me take the busiest week in the church year off!). As usual, I’d plotted out beforehand what we were going to do each day. But this time, pretty much everything worked out exactly according to my plans. It was great. But it was also disappointing. Almost. Fortunately, on our last day, Kapalua Beach was closed because of a shark attack, forcing us to drive back across the island to this restaurant we’d already eaten at three times to get one more order of fish tacos. A disruption from plan—but then it was back to schedule, which concluded with a less than ideal eight hour wait at the airport for our flight home.
I decided I should treat worship the same way I treat my vacations.
It’s an occupational requirement. I plan out each Sunday morning service, often working from scratch, with a coherent theme I try to adhere to. [It’s called an “order of service” for a reason!] One thing follows another by design: the lessons, responses, hymns, prayers, benediction…according to plan. Yet, unlike my vacations, those plans pretty well always come to be. Should I be disappointed about that? Am I making allowance for the Holy Spirit to disrupt things? I think back to the way Paul described worship in Corinth [1 Cor 14]: “When we come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation—all things being done for building up.” Almost like, God only knows what’s going to happen next! What would happen if each week I expected the unexpected. “Plan away, Pastor, but it might not go the way you think!” The Lord might just make a change or two. Maybe I’d end up having two worship experiences: the one I plan, and the one God shows up to shake things up a bit.
I’d call that doubling the pleasure.