My Thoughts Turn to YOU Today


I have spent some time today thinking and surfing the web. During that time, I came across the article below. Please take a moment to read it. Then spend a few minutes thinking about it and what message you can take away from it.

The message for me goes something like this: There is a place for each of us to worship God but how often are we doing that? I mean, do we really step outside of our busy, man-made lives and quietly be still and look for God? Sure, it is possible to see him in the faces of children on a crowded playground or in the voice of an older adult sharing stories from their past, or in a thousand other ways. But … it seems to me that people feel closer – I feel closer – to God when the surroundings are made as a sacred place.

Worship should be sacred and it should be meaningful and it should be set aside for the One. And I think that there are many ways to do worship. I also think it is extremely important to make a place for our souls to rest, find comfort, be renewed, and maybe feel the touch of Our Creator in the very depths.

For me that can be found in the ancient texts of the Bible and in the places where the saints before gathered to restore their souls and offer comfort to each other. Many others find their place in those quiet pews. Many others connect with their faith, their family history, their special remembrances in those places also. Many others are introduced to faith in community in those places. Many others meet God in those places each and every week.

That is what church should do. That is what church could do if we would simply be the church.

Wholly Bible: A View from the Pew

Malls and Amazement

By RAY WADDLE

Sitting in church the other day, I thought about the mall.

No, I was not fantasizing about Pottery Barn and Sbarro. I was thinking about all the big new churches now that aim to look and feel like the mall, and how glad I am that my little church does not.

My church is the old-fashioned kind — stone arches, long pews, wooden altar rails and tall stained glass panels that tell the stories of Jesus.

In the sweepstakes of religious competition, little neighborhood congregations like mine (with their cramped parking lots) struggle against the dazzling new normal — the large churches that forsake steeples and hymnals and dress codes and stained glass and silence. According to surveys, fewer and fewer young people and families now attend churches that were built before World War II.

I have visited some of the new churches. They are serious about ministry. They are reaching people in new ways.

But something I long for is missing there: the feeling that church should be different from the rest of the week. Sitting in a church with its century-old walls and bright stained glass is a jarring contrast to the busy street outside. It says: We will honor things that embarrass conventional society — awe, reverence, amazement, majesty, the past. It says: This is a guest house of the spirit. Here your soul can take refuge for a while. You are invited into the silence. Listen to your life talking to you. Listen for God.

I think church should look and feel different from everyday life because Jesus set the example. He was always tripping up conventional thinking. He questioned public power and high-octane public prayers. He confounded the rich and threw everybody off with his curve-ball sayings … The first shall be last … Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek. A Nazareth carpenter, not a comic-book super hero, becomes the world’s savior.

There’s nothing sacred about stained glass and candlelight. But there is something sacred about being attentive to the soul and giving it space to breathe and repair. The history of  churches is a history of sacred spaces that were built to provide sanctuary from the noisy grasping world. In such places the soul can be nurtured, fed, protected, acknowledged.

My hunch is awe, reverence, grandeur and silence are not the marks of some musty worship style that has had its day. I think those things are a fixed condition of human need across the ages. Without them, we wither and flatten out. They are also reality checks against the human itch to forget God and get bossy and overconfident, clear signs that folly and disaster will soon follow.

That’s what a church should do when you sit down inside one — reawaken wonder, summon holiness, stir the soul. That’s what my little old church does, despite all the trends. I hope all churches make people feel that way.

–Columnist Ray Waddle, author of two books published
by
Upper Room Books, lives in Bethel, Conn *Article published in Interpreter Magazine

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