A Close Encounter of the Third Kind with God

I use the same body for all my clay-throwing which is Highwater brand “Little Loafer’s Glory.” It feels great to the touch, fires and looks like the kaolin based clay of my childhood. It is simply superior. It’s a consistent winner in the battle against thermal shock and takes glazes well. I repeatedly use a chun plum glaze layered with an ancient jasper one. The look never fails even if I dare to do multiple firings of the same piece. This is simply my opinion and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So, yeah, I like what I like and tend to keep going back to it. What’s up with my tendency to do the same things whether it’s the same clays, glazes, restaurants, foods, or recipes? For instance, why do I like to watch recorded football games when I already know that my favorite team won?

Could it be that in all these circumstances I like the certainty that comes from anticipating positive outcomes. Sure, every now and then I take a risk on a new clay, glaze formula, untried restaurant or entree. However I do find that the stress of each day’s uncertainties makes me more and more desirous of the tried and true. There’s very little I can control in life so when I can, I’m going to do it! So risk and reward ratios cause me to lean toward the familiar.

What does this have to say about the life of faith? Where I live there are some packed out high energy contemporary worship services that are making main-liners ponder how to jazz things up. At the same time, however, there are some churches that have excelled at high church traditional worship and they’re full, too.  Then, of course, there are some that do both well!

I prefer the “bells and smells” of what’s good worship in my opinion. I like the ambience of a well-appointed church that belies the mystery of God and re-presents the Gospel in time-honored rituals within sanctuaries that smell like church, look like church, and more importantly act like church. Of course, this is probably where I hit the slippery slope of my own downfall today. I may end up looking for God in all the wrong places while he shows up somewhere else. Worship is for God’s sake, not mine – right? If I keep that straight, it’s all good!

But we all have personal preferences. For me, it’s not a big deal if the church is adorned with simple elegance or has Tiffany-esqe windows. What lights me up is a worship experience that has an enduring appeal to those who want a solid faith experience. It’s not consumer-driven, it’s God-driven. It’s more worship than spectator sport. I want to look like Charlton Heston in the “Ten Commandments” when I leave church with my face glowing from a close encounter of the third kind with God.

So here I am with a dilemma. I definitely have a penchant for contemporary Christian music and worship done well. At the same time, however, I have a love for rituals that take me back to Iona’s Celtic Christianity and the mystics. I want the security of traditional worship with the promise of meeting a God who dares to risk. I like contemporary songs but not the “7-11” ones where you sing the same 7 verses 11 times. Life is crazy enough so please give me some old time religion done well. It must invite me to experience God more than the worship leader.

Because I’m a visual thinker, let me ask you about worship preferences another way. What kind of service would you rather attend on Christmas Eve: candlelight communion with an acapella rendition of “O Holy Night” sung from the balcony by a great baritone, chasubles on the clergy, an elegant chrismon tree, and real candles held high, or a make-shift worship space with a clergyperson in a bright Christmas sweater, colored lights strung haphazardly all around, and everybody holding a neon glow stick?

My prejudice shows even in my description.  If I truly believe that true worship is more about God than our preference does it really matter what worship style works? I personally need more awe than wow to get me through my day, but everyone differs on what produces either effect. What floats my boat might sink yours. I know that and, way better yet, God knows what you need to get you through the tough times and the answer, either way, is WORSHIP, however defined or practiced. After all, the manger was much more awe inspiring than Herod’s palace, wasn’t it? So in the midst of today’s uncertainties I’m just pondering out loud where I can best meet a Certain God. Whatever works for you, seek and ye shall find, and I’ll try to do the same.

5 thoughts on “A Close Encounter of the Third Kind with God

  1. Tim, our thoughts and prayers are still going strong for you and your family. Your toughts are very touching as we all seek that special place. Rest assured the place you discribe is still longing for you. I was with C. Bates this weekend and you were a main topic of our discussions. He did pull a bit for Mizz though. Come see us!!

    1. Jimmy, You tell Carl that he better pull for USC! There’s a place for folks like him and he ain’t gonna need an overcoat! I miss y’all, tim

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