Monday, January 6, 2014

Worship and Beauty

Imagine worship in the Old Testament tabernacle or temple.
         Imagine the living fountains of sporadic, spurting blood as animals offered for sacrifice had their throats cut, day after day, with the business-like efficiency that comes form years of practice.  Imagine the unbearable, anguished squeals and the grotesque, gyrating spasms that attend their death throes.  Imagine, if you can, all the disgusting smells and sights, like priests with blood-stained hair, faces, hands, and robes.  Imagine dried blood and tufts of fur or feathers in random places scattered around the room, some of it lodged in cracks and crevices never to be properly cleaned, stuck in place for decades.
         Do not assume that authentic, Biblical worship is detectable by the presence of your sublime feelings.
         Imagine the horror of Isaiah, whose vision of God, high and lifted up, left him feeling crushed and disintegrated, the human version of an old baseball coming apart at the seams.  Imagine Moses, face aglow, as if he’d fallen asleep in a tanning bed, looking more aflame than inwardly warmed.
         Imagine the apostle John, whose heavenly vision of his Best Earthly Friend left him lying next door to death.
         Remember those gross and shocking sights the next time you say that your worship service was good because it was beautiful and heart warming, or that you picked this church over that church because of the pretty music or the superior stained glass windows, or because the band there really rocks.
         When we talk, think, act, or argue in such a fashion, we reveal just how far from Biblical worship we really have moved.  Biblical worship is more a blood-and-guts affair than it is a Baroque concerto.
         Blood, guts, death, and fear, not to mention dancing naked in the aisles:  That’s a more accurate picture of sinners turning to God in repentance and worship than what we now practice.  Maybe those things don’t warm your heart.  I know they don’t warm mine.  So what?  Who in Scripture ever said that Biblical worship was supposed to do that?  Who there ever said that real worship was tamed and effete, or that beauty and warm fuzzies were the Bible’s path to God, or that our wicked, coarsened souls could even recognize True Beauty when It showed up?  That’s not what darkened souls do.  They squash the Beauty; they extinguish the Light; they kill the Life.  They exchange the Truth for a lie.
         We are they.                 

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