Sunday, November 02, 2003

Pastor Scott's family has taught me a number of things over the years - or, rather, they've been the instruments whereby things which I was taught in a number of ways were crystallized. I was reminded of one of those truths at his memorial service, when one of his sons (and my friend) spoke about how his father had taught him how to "hustle" after the things of God, how to give it your all when you seek after more of the Holy Spirit in your life. I was reminded of these words from the eleventh chapter of Luke: "I say to you, even if he will not get up and give to him on account of the fact that he is his friend, indeed on account of his shamelessness he will get up and give to him as much as he needs." There is a majesty and an overpowering grandeur to the Presence, of course - but we are also invited to throw aside our sense of shame, the worthless lies which say that God doesn't want us, or that asking for more of Him is impertinence verging on blasphemy. Rather we seek after gifts from God, at His invitation, with boldness and no shame.

So worship today at The River was so good. The River has recently started providing a stretch of carpet in front of the stage, and inviting people to use that to dance, kneel, or do whatever before the Lord as part of their worship. It has been my privilege to watch The River grow as a congregation in seeking the things of the Lord in a reasonable, unassuming manner. They seek after charismata out of a recognition that the gifts of the Spirit are made available to us for a reason - never a hint that the goal is anything other than drawing closer to God and seeking after his dunamis to do His work.

(I say charismata because that is what it is, although they do not call it that. But "the speaking voice of God" is nothing other than prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom - and, conversely, prophecy is nothing other than the speaking voice of God. One of the things I appreciate about The River is that they have no pretensions that the gifts of the Spirit are weird and spooky - and because they realize that they deliberately don't use the traditional terminology for these things, presumably because that might spook those who are seeking God.)

Anyway, this is another area in which I see The River growing - expression in worship. Now on the one hand I don't mean to suggest that people who aren't dancing around and prostrating themselves before the Lord and so forth aren't worshiping. It isn't even the best part of worship - the best part of worship is when the Lord shows up, and I would rather have that and no music at all than the most jamming worship session if the Lord refused to be present. On the other hand, I think that this sort of thing is like sex. Sex is not the best part of marriage, obviously (I admit that I'm not so sure about what the best part is - but I'm sure it's not that). But to say that because a couple's love is better than sex, and therefore they're going to dispense with the sex, would be silly. On the contrary, it is because the love is better than sex that the sex occurs at all - because with a love like that you can't not give everything you have to your spouse, whatever it may be. Love delights in the smallest of expressions, and it considers none of them superfluous. So it is with worship. My desire to worship as freely as possible (and for my school congregation to worship as freely as possible) is not born out of a desire for intensity of emotion, trendiness, or any sort of pseudo-Christian voodoo invocation of God by elaborate ceremony (although I admit that the intensity is a very pleasant gift - from God to me). But the root of my desire is to give everything I can give to my Beloved - if I want to dance in my own clumsy fashion, I want to be in a congregation that encourages that. If I want to fall literally on my face, it's nice to have the carpet there. If I want to clap, lift my hands, sing harmonies, shout praises to the Lord, be still on my knees, do whatever - I want to be able to. I want to do all those things, as I am so moved - there is a certain amorous adventurousness to it, in that sense. I want to worship the Lord shamelessly, brazenly even - and it is good to be part of a congregation which is feeling that too.

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