Light and Worship

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Light and Worship

1 Peter 2:9-12

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,

but now you are God’s people;

once you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy.

Live as Servants of God1

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

The countdown came onto the screen as the lights begin to dim. The latest hits playing in the background began to slowly fade away as the guitar amplifiers hummed. There was a hiss and a cloud of gray smoke plumed out into the stage and suddenly everyone grew quiet around. Worship was about to begin.

I’m one of those odd ducks who sits at the end of Generation X and the beginning of the millennial generation. Culture sometimes moves a little slower in smaller, poorer, and/or more rural areas like the one I grew up in and I remember when I first got to college and began meeting some true millennials, I was a bit shocked at some of their differences. The scene I described above would be a dream come true for ‘gen X’ers, I think, but for millennials it probably just seems normal.

Well, actually no, let me amend that. I think they probably would get rid of the fog machine because it seems a bit too “performance driven” and inauthentic. They might replace the timer with a professional video of a church leader sharing a testimony/advertisement for the theme of the current month’s sermon series. The guitars are still there, but they are balanced more with keyboard synths, and the music overall has slowed down. Gen X wanted to jump and shout, while the new worshippers want to sway with God like a middle school slow dance.

I’m an odd duck, and I see humor in much of it. But I also so some great similarities as well. The younger generations might argue about the song selection and setup of the chairs, but the one thing they will all agree on is the light switch needs to be turned off. We want it dark in our worship spaces. We want to forget everyone else around us and create an environment of intimacy. The only light needs to be coming from the words on the screen, and we want to fill the space around those words with beautiful paintings of light, depicting the great creativity of our God.

We see a similar attitude from our older worshippers who love to attend candlelight vigil services, often around Christmas time. Shut the lights off and let’s create an intimate setting where we lose track of everyone but me and God, and the pretty lights all around. We want to lose ourselves and all the burdens we carry in the daytime, and we want to be caught up in the beautiful darkness around us. Maybe we learned it from the nightclubs and speakeasies of the Prohibition era as many former addicts became Christians and sought to attract in those looking for escape from life as they knew it.

I don’t really know where it all came from or why it lingers on. What I do know is that scripture calls us people who have come out of the darkness and now walk in the light. I’m not opposed to worshipping in dark rooms. I just wonder what it says about those of us who cannot worship outside of them, in the light of day. Peter, and God before him in Exodus, calls us a royal priesthood and a holy nation – those who worship on behalf of others. We do not live as Christians in their place, as substitutes. We live as Christians to be examples, to lead them to Christ. Do we do that in our worship, or are we lost in the dark, trying to lose ourselves and everyone around us?

I think Jesus Himself probably stated it the best:

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Where do you find the light of God?

Do you allow that light to shine through you in your worship?


  1. (Cp Rom 13:1–5)

Beauty

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“Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;

they will behold a land that stretches far away.

Your mind will muse on the terror:

“Where is the one who counted?

Where is the one who weighed the tribute?

Where is the one who counted the towers?”

No longer will you see the insolent people,

the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,

stammering in a language that you cannot understand.

Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!

Your eyes will see Jerusalem,

a quiet habitation, an immovable tent,

whose stakes will never be pulled up,

and none of whose ropes will be broken.

But there the Lord in majesty will be for us

a place of broad rivers and streams,

where no galley with oars can go,

nor stately ship can pass.

For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler,

the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33.17-22 (NRSV)

Closely related to Christ’s gentleness is His beauty. Although, it is not popular in many cultures to call a man (or a boy) beautiful, God has, in Jesus Christ, everything that we would consider beauty.

Beauty may be subjective, or “in the eye of the beholder”, but it cannot be beautiful if it does not capture our attention. True beauty is that which draws us out of ourselves. The greatest kinds of beauty draw us out of ourselves and transform us into something beautiful ourselves.

This is Who God is. He is that greatest, true beauty. He speaks, and the whole world listens. The winds and the waves obey and lift Him up. The angels of heaven celebrate His birth alongside poor shepherds and pagan leaders. Those who followed, not even knowing what they would expect to find had their lives transformed right before them. Simeon and Anna in the temple waited their whole lives just to meet the newborn messiah. Jesus does not disappoint when we come to Him, just as He is, and just as we are.

But beauty draws the possibility of envy and jealousy as well. When we see the light we see ourselves more clearly and sometimes we don’t like what we see. We resist being drawn out of ourselves and retreat into the darkness to plan ways of wounding the beauty before us. It is sinful nature that invites us to fear what we cannot understand and hate what we cannot have.

Yet, despite our best (or worst) efforts, the beauty of God is not broken. The ugliness of the cross on which our Savior hung only made the majesty of the manger more real. The attempts to put out the light, surrounding it with darkness only made it shine brighter.

So to, the light of Christ, the true gift of Christmas, shines brightest in you and I when we face the darkness around us instead of flee from it. Do you want to be beautiful? Let Christ shine through you. Nothing else in this world can compare. You cannot dress, cover, color, or work your way to greater beauty than by simply letting the light of Christ shine in you. The Creator of beauty Himself made you just for that purpose.

  • Where do you see the beauty of God?
  • What do you see in your life that is not beautiful?
  • How can you bring the beauty of God to those places that need His light and love?

Bring your peace into our violence

Bid our hungry souls be filled

Word now breaking heaven’s silence

Welcome to our world

Friday December 23, 2016

The Herald

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She sought solace, wrapped in soft,

thick clouds, from a dark, cold world.

Le Nuage d’Aurore gazes back

to the land where love and fear intersect

and mix in awesome dissonance

and beauty enough to stop the train

of Titan’s gait. He gives pause to wait

for another sight of her peaking billows

creeping over the cup of darkness below

like too much milk in a pitcher too small,

threatening to overflow and spill upon

a famished land. They cry with hand

held high toward heaven’s dove

who refuses to turn her back

on a world in which she cannot stand

to stay. Yet soon will come the day

persistence paid in scarlet streaks

she yet again will light the skies

and herald the Sun in fevered gleam

and mark the heavens

and feed His fish –

His dying wish.

 


 


 

An Acrostic on Midnight – Life XVII

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We hide each night

not in gestures, however timely

in stature

and living marks of strained torque –

deeds of no extent.

 

A new day

set upon nimble reaches in sure event,

glows red on waiting shores,

sighing onward

‘neath each awaiting response.

 

This hour answers those

warring emotions,

crashing and neurotic,

tipped over unconditionally, crying horrendously

to heroic endearments,

slighting pillars, and culling each sentinel.

 

It ticks softly,

this intimate moment evading

the other

siding midway over on the hearth

to hither ears

hidden above iridescent regality.

 

Addled, noted digressions

greet each tether,

together heading everywhere,

dreaming in multiplexed prickles, leaning ever south,

reverencing every addler, despite yourself.

 

All now declare

with open numinosity, declaring eighty reaches

without end,

cradled over us, lowered down,

crossed and redeeming evermore.

 

For our respite

there heralds a trophy,

only left dying

for a death-eating democracy

marked in damned notes, in great hellish thoughts.

 

This has a troubling,

fear-ridden intensity, garnished here this evening, next empty doors,

but underneath this,

another note…

hope – our understanding renewed.