Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Looking for God

Visiting a different church is always interesting. We automatically evaluate what we see, hear, and experience. Doing that comes naturally.

A good exercise for spiritual reflection is for us to be self-aware enough in that moment to stop evaluating the new experience and look at ourselves. What is the way we are measuring this time we are spending with a group of believers who are new to us?

For many of us, because of the way we've been formed by religion, our opinion of the event of worship with others comes down to "did I agree with what was said and done?" What does this say about what we believe is the essential reality of Christian worship and community?

Obviously this shows that for us everything comes down to an orthodoxy of correct doctrine and practice. Now that sounds good . . . but the "correctness" of everything is being measured by my own understanding. My intellect becomes the arbiter of what is orthodox. I aspire to orthodoxy as much as anyone else - but I'm trying to let go of the idea that assumes I am orthodox and therefore able to "detect" all those who are not.

What if we were to let God be the judge of orthodoxy? What if my "evaluation" of the experience of worshipping with others in a new situation was centered on one question: is the Presence of God here? Forget what I think about the rightness or correctness of what they say and do! If God is present, how critical should I be?

Seems to me that Peter judged his encounter with Cornelius not on the basis of his understanding of what was correct, but on the real Presence of God. In fact, looking for God seems to be what the early Christians did . . . and it helped them out of some of the wrong-headed ideas they believed were orthodox - like 'Gentiles can't be Christians'.

Conversely, God may also be obviously present where everything isn't truly orthodox . . . and that says something to us about His grace and mercy. If God is present in the imperfect, can I stay away? Don't I become like the slave of the foot-washing Master who refuses to wash feet? If God serves I can't refuse to serve and be called His.

I know . . . if we run around following God rather than our own understandings of orthodoxy who knows where it might lead! And we can't have that.

1 comment:

Steve Duer said...


Good thoughts. I chuckled when I was reading your post because after our visit to Bham last month, I blogged about our worship with DF. (It was the Corinthian Service Sunday if you remember). Shannon and I discussed what we saw and experienced and how we felt about it almost to Chattanooga. As I put in my blog I was struck by the realness of the discussions and the level of active encouragement of those who were sharing. I didn't saying this consisely but I felt God's presence.
I think I will add Peter's "test of fellowship" to my analysis for any future visits to churches.