The golf pro speaking to my civic club remarked about how he often played on Sunday mornings. Then, as if prompted by the thought that, as a Christian, he ought “to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” he quickly added, “I can worship God in the Cathedral of the Great Outdoors just as well as I can in a church.”
Just a few moments later, however, he emphasized “If you want to play golf well you have to focus on what you are doing. You can’t be thinking about other things.”
So, then how does worship fit into that situation that demands full attention to golf?
We Augustans especially recognize golf as one of the world’s greatest sports, both for players and for spectators. We suspect, however, that there is not a lot of worship going on when people are playing. (Billy Graham famously quipped that “God answers my prayers everywhere except on the golf course.”) Praying for a good drive or a birdie, however, might not be what Jesus had in mind when he declared, “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth!” (John 4:24)
Worshipping God is far more than just experiencing a sentimental thought about the beauties of nature when you are in some pretty setting, far more than just a fleeting thought about God when you are doing something else. True worship involves focusing on God as our top priority, turning our hearts, minds and spirits toward God exclusively, as far as that is humanly possible.
Many of us find that we can be helped to fulfill our purpose of worship by spending time in a sanctuary designed to inspire and support our worship, by removing distractions and by calling our attention to signs and symbols that remind us of God. The Bible on a pulpit, the Cross, the Communion Table, the Baptismal Font, all speak to us about God and what He offers to us human beings.
Yes, if we have cultivated the art of worship and practice it regularly, we may indeed be able to experience moments of worship on a golf course, a beautiful seacoast, a spectacular mountain top, deep in a verdant forest or elsewhere. The more earnestly and intently we refine the art of worship through learning and practice in a sanctuary, the more able we are to worship elsewhere also and thereby experience the spiritual nourishment our souls need and crave. I pray this blessing for you as for myself!
The Rev. G. Daniel McCall is the minister of pastoral care at Fairview Presbyterian Church in North Augusta.