Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Does God Show Up?

"God just seemed to show up." I have heard this phrase numerous times this past week and have used it myself in the past. It is most often used to describe the unexpected awareness we have of the presence of God in corporate worship. In the midst of prayer, singing, a message, a prayer station or what have you, you as a person or a community as a whole become acutely aware of the presence and immanence of God. As worship choreographers you then begin to wonder if there was anything you did to facilitate God showing up. This awareness can be joyful and ecstatic causing us to celebrate or overwhelming and dreadful bringing us to our knees. But does God show up? Can God be absent and then arrive? Isn't God always present even when we do not have any particular response to a corporate gathering of worship? Does God show up or is it rather that we for whatever reason are willing and able to hear and respond?

Let me ask it another way. Are the thin places that the Celts talk about, God breaking in to time and space or are they when and where WE become of the ever-present presence of God that is constantly among us and permeates every nook and cranny of the world he made?

Howard Thurman in talking about the role of spiritual exercises in the life of the follower of Jesus says, they "build an immunity against the confusion and distractions of environment... they do not guarantee that the Spirit will be encountered but they do prepare the way of response to his movement.” Communal and personal practices help prepare us to be expectant to see and hear God. I don't think God shows up. I think God is always present and longing to communicate to us through the Holy Spirit, the word, culture, nature, or another person. Whether in the corporate gathering of worship; or in the cubicle at work; or in the encounter of a panhandler on the street; or the brilliant orange sunset sky - God is present, active and speaking.

The question is are we looking, expecting and even searching for divine encounters in our normal everyday life.

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.” (Romans 12:1-2, the Message)

3 comments:

Kyle said...

perhaps it is easier to be aware of the transcendant God when we gather with the immanent body of christ... the church.

Nick & Lauren said...

Amen, BJ! We have just recently woken up to this idea at B1 thanks to Velvet Elvis, and now that I am beginning to get it I feel shocked at my previous arrogance that I could bring God to a place.

Do you think the verse 'where two or more are gathered in my name, there I'll be' is misleading, or have we just been misreading it?

bj woodworth said...

Our Aussie friends (Micheal and Alan) would say you need a bit more commitment and covenant to one another to be the church, but in terms of God's presence he resides in us even individually through the Holy Spirit so God is for sure present in the small inforaml gatherings. I am certainly not pushing an individualistic Christianity but God is ever present whether we can perceive it or not.