I remember hearing about a congregation who had invited a famous preacher to preach for them one Sunday. As it turned out, however, he couldn't go and he sent his brother to speak in his place. As word got around the congregation, several people started to leave. The fill-in preacher then stood up and made this announcement: "Those of you who came to hear my brother speak may leave at this time; those of you who came to worship God may stay."

There is another story that is told of a tourist in Washington, D.C., who telephoned the minister of a church where the president often attended. The tourist wanted to know if the president was expected to worship there that Sunday. The minister said, "That I don't know for certain, but I can tell you that we are expecting God to be here, and we hope his presence will attract a sizeable crowd."

Can you deny that you would be impressed, even a bit awed, by the presence of the president of the United States in your congregation? Sometimes we forget that as we gather, we are in the presence of Almighty God. We are privileged to have an audience with the King of all creation. We can enter his palace, kneel at his throne, speak our humble praise, and receive his divine blessing.

You see, it's always tempting for us to judge the quality of worship by the beauty of the setting or the impressiveness of what we see and hear. At Mt. Sinai, the Israelites approached God in a scene that was tangible and terrifying to the senses. They could see the glory of God. They could hear the power of God.

But our worship is different. "For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet ..." (Hebrews 12:18-19a)

We are still in the presence of God.
Our worship may not always look impressive, but we need to be careful that we never forget that we are still in the presence of God. "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God ...." (Hebrews 12:22a)

What that means is that Christians are on "holy ground" in the weekly worship assembly. The bricks and mortar, the pulpit and pews, are not sacred. But, wherever God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are present, we need to respond to that presence by figuratively taking off our shoes in reverent, worshipful praise. Jesus said it this way, "For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20)