27 January 2009

revered and reverend

Artist and theologian Rich Mullins once commented on what it means to be reverent before God . . .

It started out with this guy who was yelling at this kid for running in the 'House of God,' because he was running through a church building, and I thought that was funny because I think the Bible was fairly explicit that earth is God's footstool and heaven is his throne: "What kind of house can you build for me?"

I think it's pretty explicit that the Body of Christ is also the House of God - that we are the temple, that it has to do with people, not with buildings.  I've often thought, you know, people worry with the Catholic thing of revering Mary, and I've often thought: "Well, maybe it's not that they revere Mary too much.  Maybe it's that all of us revere each other too little."

And so I was thinking about this old man going to a meeting and realizing on his way that he'd already been in a meeting.  It's just he hadn't been in a corporate meeting.  He'd already been surrounded by the presence of God.  And he looks out, and of course he's a farmer and has an appreciate for seasons - has an appreciation for that kind of thing.  And all of the sudden he realizes that God invented green.

There is a certain eloquence in the earthy nature of Rich's words, a very poetry that captures the inner workings of the soul.  I think that is one reason why he was so captivating - for those who stop to listen.  He draws our attention here to the reverence which surrounds us, and how we've lost our ability to grasp it.  Scot McKnight playfully points to a serious truth in showing how Mary declares in her Spirit-inspired song of praise (Magnificat) that "all generations (except for Protestants) will call me blessed . . ."  Our fear of deeper spirituality (and all things Roman Catholic) has stripped away our sense of wonder and mystery . . . and reverence.

On Sunday evening I was ordained an elder in my particular church denomination.  This means that in some circles I will be referred to as reverend.  Certainly we all know of someone who carries this title proudly and boldly without consideration for the weight of it all.  Personally, I found the service to be powerfully humbling - even more than I expected it to be.  There is a real charge given in Scripture to those who choose to participate in the faith, especially those who lead.

But I could not help but wonder if we now find ourselves in the same position as Rich describes . . . Have we fallen into a trap of segmenting our community into those who are reverend and those who are not?  Not by title alone, there is certainly a sense in which 'these few' are doing the Lord's business (a sacred calling) and the rest of us are here to receive.  But why then did the early believers think in terms of the priesthood of all believers?  Perhaps it is not that we we are revering some of our leaders too much but that we are revering each other too little; we have lost the weight of the calling which is upon us.

Everyone is trying to find healthy churches and ministries, leaderships and outreaches.  Perhaps the reverence due to each one about our Father's business, combined with the perception of the imago Dei upon all humanity, will lead us closer to this reality.


Steven Rossi said...

Definitely. It's almost as though the Church has deified church-related leadership positions. To be called to the "ministry" is a very respectable thing to happen to someone. A disconnect is clearly formed.

It's interesting to note, though, that this tendency seems to be slowly fading. I guess I'm referring in large part to the blogosphere, in which anyone can say anything about anyone or anything...and lots of times about God. I've read many a powerful truth on various blogs, and that doesn't seem to have happened in previous generations.

:mic said...


Thanks. Not to appear contrary in response to your second statement . . . but I wonder if this is due to the increased interaction and 'reverence' among believers or the devaluing of everything. In other words, have we been content to 'bring down' the high and mighty, have we also done anything to 'lift up' the lowly? Mountains and valleys, Isaiah told us.