January 12, 2011
True Christian worship has a focus on the person of God. He is holy, He is perfect, He is the author of unmerited grace and favor. No matter how large He is, He has a personal knowledge and relationship with me. When I am in church (by definition a large crowd in my case) and we are singing a song like Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin, I frequently get choked up and tearful. My hands raise in the air in worship. I may even speak in tongues quietly in worship but it has absolutely nothing to do with seeking ecstacy. It has everything to do with focusing on the person of Christ and reflecting on His character. This does not replace Christian activism or working with the poor. Is this what Norm Prenger wants to call â€œGetting high on Godâ€? Prenger says, â€œMany people today want to â€œget highâ€ on God, in a big crowd and with big music, in an experience as mesmerizing as the effects of a powerful drug.â€œ I find that a bit demeaning.<br><br>Christian group worship is the absolute antithesis of what Prenger describes as getting lost in God, of â€œforgetting that you exist, that the world exists, that good and evil exist. Just shed these illusions and dissolve yourself in the divine ocean like a grain of salt.â€ David Brooks makes a very perceptive observation, â€œDreyfus and Kelly suffer from the usual Cambridge/Berkeley parochialism. They assume that nobody believes in eternal truth anymore.â€ Therefore, some people whoosh at a civil rights rally, some at a Nazi Rally and some at a Grateful Dead Concert. I am not seeking feelings, or the whoosh, I am seeking communion with the Savior which will inevitably produce feelings. Tomlin is frequently criticized for his emotional church anthems, (Big music, Big crowds), but meditate on his lyrics;<br><br>He became sin, who knew no sin /That we might become His righteousness / He humbled himself and carried the cross / Love so amazing, love so amazing <br>Jesus Messiah, name above all names / Blessed redeemer, Emmanuel / The rescue for sinners, the ransom from Heaven / Jesus Messiah, Lord of all <br>His body the bread, his blood the wine / Broken and poured out all for love / The whole earth trembled, and the veil was torn / Love so amazing, love so amazing
The more interesting aspect of the Dreyfus and Kelley book is the theme of polytheism that Brooks and the WSJ review of a week ago both touched on. The fracturing of reality into its mini-epiphanies (this whooshing) suggests a world of multiple touch points to the immanent divine. Useful here, would be the role of Trinitarian thought, that the One is glimpsed in these epiphanies is also the one who Reveals and who Comes to us in Christ Jesus. Of course we are always working to settle for something that is less than the full revelation of God, something that lets us stay here, something that lets us dismiss our need for redemption.
Upon reading the description of "whooshing," I thought also of the word "epiphany," in the sense writer James Joyce employed in his short stories, as in moments of clarity or awareness of greater significance beyond the present circumstance.
â€œDreyfus and Kelly say that we should have the courage not to look for some unitary, totalistic explanation for the universe. Instead, we should live perceptively at the surface, receptive to the moments of transcendent whooshes.â€<br><br>It sounds to me that in encouraging us to not look for a unitary explanation for the universe, they themselves are offering one.
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