09 June 2016

a liturgy 1


Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; let the whole world tremble before him.
Psalm 96

Enter into this space and be still. Sit quietly and do not let your mind attend to other matters. This is not a time for our thoughts or our mouths to chatter, going along as though this were a rather ordinary (and perhaps mundane) event in our week. We should not casually enter this space, no matter how austere or plain it may appear to the casual observer. It matters not what this space may or may not be otherwise, this morning it has become holy ground, for this is where God will come to meet with his people gathered together. Do not profane the sacred by arriving in indifference.

The proper response to the anticipation of our gathering and his coming is to remain silent. The deep longings of the spirit should not be trampled upon by casual greetings and shallow conversation; the business we have with our brother and sister will keep until this moment has past, and the weather will remain even if we do not speak of it. There is a time and place for this sort of fellowship, but this is not it. In those brief moments of anticipation to where two or three will be gathered ought to be focused not on the gathering, but on the presence of the One who will come to dwell among them. It is for the Spirit of God that we wait, and the Spirit does not feel welcomed by those who are too distracted by things of a temporal nature – those should be left in the entry, where they may be taken up if they are still so pressing after we have plunged our souls into the depths of this coming presence.

Becoming quiet reminds us that this hour is not magical. We cannot simply choose to experience the supernatural because it happens to be a good time for us. Such thinking does not seek to dwell in the presence of the Almighty, but rather find a familiar-sounding incantation to sprinkle upon ourselves whenever we figure life could be improved. And so we rush from one activity to another, and then take a short detour into this gathering where we think that music is our worship, tithing our sacrifice, and the message our comfort. With the right words and sentiment, this becomes our ritual of magic – not intrusive, but there for when we need it.

Sitting in silence teaches us that we are unworthy to come into the presence of the Almighty. There is a descent of this reality that comes when we turn away from the noise that fills our lives. We do not accept silence very often in our lives – car radios are seldom off, televisions run well into the night, and a thousand advertisements for improving our lives bombard us at every turn. When we are surrounded by such noise we do not see ourselves as we really are, for we can divert our attention to something else. Blending this moment into the noise of culture does not transport us into the Spirit's presence. This is not a rock concert, this is not a circus show, this is not a campaign rally. The silencing of our heart and mind brings us back to reality, where we might hear him speak in his still, small voice.

So, when you enter into this space, be quiet and remain still. Do not come dragging the profanities of your life with you, thinking that this is a simple diversion that covers a multitude of sins that you aren't prepared to abandon. In this silence meditate in the wonderful anticipation that he is coming to meet with those who gather in his name, and that you have been summoned to come, yet cautioned against half-heartedness: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole world tremble before him.

Contemplate your sacrifice, which is not the money in your pocket, or your service for the church, or anything else that you may bring with you. Your sacrifice is that which you could not produce, nor could you earn for yourself; it is your own life, from top to bottom, that you offer in this moment. And despite all of the cracks and flaws and dirt that tell the story of your imperfect journey, present yourself in beauty before your Maker, and allow him to bring your worship into his holiness. It is when we enter into the silence of this presence that we open ourselves up to where the Spirit desires to take us, which he will do when our gathered worship commences.

The proper response to the anticipation of our gathering and his coming is to remain silent.

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