Friday, November 30, 2012

The Holy of Holies and Shallow Modern Worship

So, this is a thought that is long overdo, which I meant to post about 6 months ago. So if it sounds whiny or cynical, that's not me now. Well, no...I'm still cynical.
But anyway...

I started thinking (about 6 months ago before I fell into the deadly sin of blogger sloth-aka having a life off of the internet) about ancient Judaism, with the Temple, with God's dwelling place in the Holy of Holies where nobody but the High Priest dared enter (and even then with fear and trembling). And I started wondering: what would it have been like for that High Priest. What would it be like to go into a place where the presence of God was so powerful that people were known to die by entering with impure hearts?  Imagine how much preparation it would take for someone to be anywhere near able to do that- and I don't just mean Levitical purification rights (that would make a truly riveting post)...I'm talking about emotional, psychological preparation. I mean, it's the eternal, all powerful Creator of the Universe we're talking about here. And as for the final act of passing the threshold... that would surely entail an inexpressible amount of awe and reverence. To be the one person who could literally stand before God on behalf of a whole nation... yep, that's pretty intense.  

In the midst of this somewhat dumbfounded pondering, my mind drifted to something else, which had been on my mind a whole lot then, and even now months later: the shallowness of a great deal of modern Christian worship. And by this, I do mean all forms, but the particular one that irks me is corporate worship songs. So... we sing to the Almighty God, and all we can think to praise Him for is what He has done for us, and how He makes us feel? And even when songs are actually reverent, they have no meaningful content whatsoever?
Ok, I recognize that there are good worship songs out there, but going to a Christian college where I have chapel every day, I have been exposed to A LOT of stuff that is shallow, self centered, and has no real content. (Oh don't get me started on the utter lack of content in modern worship songs.) But, moving on to other forms of worship, there are a lot of the same issues there as well. Prayer is another case in point: we talk to God about what we want, how we feel, and quite often treat Him as a divine vending machine or genie of some sort.

I want to be clear: this is a criticism of myself as much- maybe even more- than anyone else. And I am not saying there is anything wrong with valuing the emotional connection that we have with God, or thanking Him for what He has done in our lives. In fact, I wish I were a lot better at these things. But the point I would like to make is that God is worthy of worship that is deeper, more thoughtful, and reverent than what most Christians (including myself) tend to give Him. Our prayers should go beyond simple thanksgiving when things go our way or 30 second prayers when someone asks us to intercede for them, or the more lengthy prayers we offer when we want something for ourselves or someone very close to us. We should go deeper. And this sometimes means Doing things like pouring the darkest parts of out hearts and minds to God in times of desperation and pain, or journaling to sort through deep issues and asking for wisdom. As for corporate worship, there is usual not much we can do when a song during service is shallow or devoid of content, but we can amend the way we engage in it. We can focus not just on the worship, but also on the fact that it is corporate. Community is o e of the most powerful things about structured worship in a church service. Honestly, most emotionally focused lyrical worship bugs the crap out of me, for reasons I have already mentioned. I prefer liturgy and a more meditative environment, as that is what really directs me to worship and reverence. But in situations such as chapel at my university, when I look around me and really listen to my fellow believers offering up their hearts to their creator, I am deeply moved and directed to God in an equally profound experience of worship. That is just one example of the sort of approach I am suggesting.

And of course, life itself is an act of worship. The greatest way for us to serve and worship God is to not separate out daily life from praise, prayer, meditation on God's truth, and possibly most importantly seeking out those moments in which He makes himself known in our lives.

My Art

As a follow-up to the last post, after speaking about my artistic passion, I must show some of my work. This is not anywhere near all of my stuff, but it is what I consider some of my best.
Enjoy, but I will warn you: if you even thing of stealing my ideas and violating copyright laws I will KICK YOU IN THE SHINS!!!!
Anyway, here it is...
 1st piece in a series on Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"


 The following 6 prices are a series on the biblical story of Jonah.                                   

  From the biblical book of Daniel...

Daniel's vision of a man with skin like topaz and bronze, eyes like fire, surrounded by flashes of lighting. Actually, this is the inspiration for this blog's name!

The mysterious hand writing on the wall to predict the fall of king Nebuchadnezzar. "Mene mene hekel veparsin."