We went to Spring Harvest as a young family way back in its earliest days of the 1980’s, at Prestatyn. It was so exciting, seeing the Big Top from quite a distance away as you approached. Pontins had a fence right round their campus, with only one way in, carefully guarded by their security people. We showed our bookings, and were allowed in. Coming from a fairly staid anglican background, we were thrilled with the new songs we learned there, the new approaches to worship, being part of a vast worshipping congregation.
The tabernacle too, was a tent within a fenced courtyard, with only one gate in. The instructions for it are in Exodus 27:9-19. All the Israelites were welcome to enter, but they had to bring something else with them – an animal to sacrifice. As they entered the gate, the altar of sacrifice was immediately before them. Their worship was one of sacrifice. They could not come close to Holy, Almighty God without a blood offering to cleanse them. The acrid smells of burning flesh must have permeated the whole area, but there was no other way. Their worship must have been a solemn affair, recognising the burden of sin they were placing on their beast, and committing it to its fate.
Yet in Psalm 100, the people were bid to enter the courts with praise and thanksgiving, and joyful songs, knowing and appreciating the goodness of God. And it was so easy to do just that at Spring Harvest – all the more so, since we could approach knowing that Jesus, our once-for-all sacrifice, had paid the terrible price for our sin, and we were free to enter and enjoy worshipping and drawing near to our Father God.
But sometimes coming and worshipping isn’t that easy. Life isn’t all Spring Harvest holidays. We’ve had bad news, fallen out with somebody, we’re struggling with faith, don’t like the songs… Hebrews 13:15 tells us, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…” There are times we just have to lay down these burdens, and choose to worship, and choose to put all our hearts, minds and lips into it; through gritted teeth if need be. It is by grace, Jesus has done all so that we are free to come, but we still have a sacrifice to bring – and that is anything that is stopping us from joyfully entering the courts of our Lord.