..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On crash helmets and the Living God

"It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may awake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return." -- Annie Dillard, in Teaching a Stone to Talk

Whether invited or uninvited, one day God will show up in our churches and we should be glad to have the hard hats, life preservers, and even the oxygen masks that will drop in case the church cabin loses, or perhaps in this case gains, pressure. Our vision and expectation of who God is, and what He is able to do, is abysmally small. We "visit" Him in church as if we were visiting a feeble, dying relative in a nursing home: sitting perfunctorily, not knowing what to say, showing up more out of a sense of duty than love, and biding the time until we can get home to the real action--Sunday afternoon football or the backyard grill.

Even in churches that profess a deeper level of spirituality, our eyes are more often on human actions, plans and posturings than rapt attention to the Holy One. It is written, "No man can see God's face and live (Exodus, 33:20). We cannot set up our own churches as penny arcades where, for a cent or two, you can catch a safe glimpse of God through a peephole.

Meeting God is about encounter with the Mighty One. Whether He comes to us in a whirlwind, or in silence, in consolations or in confrontations, that is up to Him. It is up to us to arrive prepared for anything. Anything less, most likely, counts as the sin of idolatry. For if we do not discern Him arightly, do not give Him the place He deserves, then we worship a God of our own making and not He who is Living and True.

Life preservers are not just for sissies. You would be unwise to swim out into the Deep without one. So next week if I show up to church wearing one, it is out of respect for what could and should be happening there. I'll leave the straw hat for the gardening, if I'm able to get back to land. Let's go to church with the expectation that we will meet the Living God there. It will never be business as usual.

1 comment:

LEM said...

Your article was very well done and I concur with your thoughts. I sometimes look around on a Sunday at people and amazing the looks that they project. Tired,
watching their watch constantly.
bored, staring into space, etc., etc., etc. Sad but many are there but in body only. Strange how attentive people can be when in need but when that is not happening we fall back into our
our own world and give little thought to our God or thanks for all he provides us with on a daily basis.