When I was a small child, I remember a dresser which had veneer. If you are wondering what veneer is, the dictionary definition of veneer is “a thin decorative covering of fine wood applied to a coarser wood or other material.” This dresser had seen better days, so some pieces of veneer were missing or loose. As a curious child I noticed the difference between the beautiful veneer and the coarse wood beneath. And truth be told, I wanted to pull on the veneer to see more, much to my Mother’s dismay.
As an adult, I have a couple of pieces of furniture from my family which are solid wood. The veneer dresser, by the way, is long gone. One of these pieces of furniture is an oak end table. I remember when it was purchased at an antique store. It too had seen better days. But being solid wood, the beauty of the oak was restored to its former glory, because it was oak all the way down. It was solid wood.
I cannot help but feel that we as Christians are being tested by the Covid-19 pandemic. If we can’t assemble together, will we worship God in smaller groups? God continues to be worthy of worship. In fact, our English word, worship, has as its etymology “acknowledgement of worth.” God is still our creator. God is still our redeemer. God is still the one who reveals himself through his word. God’s providence hasn’t failed. I still have blessings, and God still deserves thanksgiving.
What I fear is that this past Sunday, God received less worship, less praise, and less thanksgiving than the week before. And if my fear is true, it is not because churches weren’t trying to provide resources for their members. It seems to me that a crisis is exactly the time to turn to God even more devotedly. So I want to make clear the challenge for us.
On Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, he and Silas were arrested in Philippi. They were placed in stocks in the inner prison. Roman prisons had less creature comforts than our modern jails and prisons, and I wouldn’t want to live in a modern one let less a Roman prison. Not only were they in jail, but Paul and Silas were placed in the most secure part of that prison. Their feet were placed in stocks, a device to confine their extremities and make it impossible to escape. And I thought long flights in economy class were uncomfortable. I can’t imagine the discomfort felt by Paul and Silas. And yet, what did they do? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25 ESV). Paul and Silas didn’t stop worshipping and praying when times were tough or even when they couldn’t be in an assembly with others.
So the question is a simple one. Will we continue to worship and pray? Is our Christianity more like a thin layer of veneer, or are we solid wood all the way down?
— Russ Holden
*Oxford Dictionary of English, see under veneer and worship.