Wednesday, July 13, 2011

God Above all Boxes

I'm sitting here at the mechanics shop, waiting on my oil to be changed.  Because they are such a kind and good company, they have provided a Keurig coffee machine for their customers, and so I am enjoying a cup of "German Chocolate coffee".  It's really almost as good as the cake and the calorie count is lots better.  ;)

Now seemed like a good time to blog, despite the loud Newboys song on the radio (it is Christian music, so that is nice), and the tv prattling on far too long about the Casey Anthony story (it's a horribly sad sad case... yet babies are killed every day under the guise of women's rights, and I wish it received the same outrage by the general public).  Anyway, not only does this place have good coffee, they also have wi-fi... yes, I told you they were a good company.

My sisters and I were home alone over the weekend, Mom and Dad were out of town for their anniversary.  Visiting a church seemed like a good idea to us... our family has been doing home church for a while now (so many things to be learned from stepping out of "the American Church Box" for a while), and it's been good, but it's not ideal, and we would like to get plugged in someplace.   Because I adore church bells and steeples, I proposed visiting the historical Methodist church in downtown.  The sisters voted and it was unanimous- the big Methodist church it would be.

It's always fun to get ready to go any place with my sisters... there is plenty of bobby pin thievery that goes on, along with shoe, slip, and cami borrowing and bartering, blow drying, and female opinions fly faster than the hair spray.

Once out the door, we drove the long country roads and into the big big city.   We sat in the balcony and sang the hymns heartily along with the large robed choir.  They have the most wonderful majestic pipe organ there too.  We listened to a gentle sermon about forgiveness.

The front of the church, above and behind the stage, are magnificent scenes of Christ made from stained glass.  (I do so love stained glass... it's a visible reminder that God must break us, and then shine through us, to create beauty)

And I realize that I love the beauty and reverence of the more traditional churches.  I was raised more non-denominational... the churches I grew up attending were usually less than formal... sometimes even downright casual (although my family and I never quite fit in with that sort; as a matter of fact, we didn't really fit into any one box- we've always been rather free-spirited, but always within the bounds of old-fashioned-values).  Steeples, church bells, altars, and sadly in some cases crosses, seem passe' in favor of casual and "relevance".  I don't like it.  Call me old fashioned (as a matter of fact I'd take it as quite a compliment), but I just think there's something to be said for dressing up in your best (whatever that may be) for church, and a humble reverence in the way we approach worship.  Not that it should be stuffy... but because we love Him, we should want to give our very best.

But then, as I realized, thinking about all this, that while the casual approach isn't quite right, neither is God quite traditional.  The Jesus who ate with sinners, showed love to loose women, and didn't follow the traditions of men doesn't fit completely in the 'traditional church box' either.   But then neither did He allow disrespect to His Father; He called sin sin and no unrighteousness was winked at, even when it was covered by long robes and good deeds. 

Perhaps I am a church misfit, I thought.  If you stop and think about it, none of it looks quite like the church in the book of Acts.

While God fills all our 'church boxes', He is not contained in any of them.  The 'church boxes' and traditions are not for God, they are for us.  I know some folks who might feel intimated by the more formal worship services and opt for something more comfortable, while some folks need more structure.  I don't have a problem really with the root of either of them, an appeal to personality preferences you might say... my problem with most American churches is that the disease of sin is allowed to run rampant and not dealt with. Cover that up any which way your like, with shorts and electric guitars, or with suits and an organ, it's still wrong.

I wonder, perhaps though, if folks would be less inclined to sin if they had a more healthy fear of God; I notice that a person's standards for pure living (holiness) is usually in direct correlation to the amount that they fear God .  And perhaps if folks experienced more reverence in church they would have more of a fear of God, and perhaps by worshiping differently, perhaps it would cause them to live differently.

This awesome God of ours doesn't fit in any 'church box'... He is all-powerful, and rides on the wings of the wind.  And in some cases in the Bible, He asked strange things of people (He told the Prophet Jeremiah to bury his underwear; if that's not unconventional I don't know what is).  Yet this adventurous God of all nature is also the pure and gentle Comforter of a broken heart and Friend of little children.

Hurricane or gentle rain, He is Lord of it all. 

Stained glass windows and padded pews or metal building and folded chairs, He is Lord of it all.

And as my sisters and I sat in the car after service, windows down, soaking in the praisefull hymns of the chiming bells, perhaps He even smiled at us... I know He was certainly with us. 

My car and my coffee are both finished, so I suppose these musings should be too.  I've really rambled on far too long already anyway.


Beloved's Bride said...

Another great read Marianna! I love reading your heart's thoughts!

Amelia said...

My sentiments too Marianna...You have quite a way with words my Dear, wonderful Marianna. I loved reading this. Love you! xxxooo ~Mom

Jane B. Gaddy said...

Marianna, you are wise beyond your years— I love how you expressed your thoughts about the stained glass windows ... "I do so love stained glass... it's a visible reminder that God must break us, and then shine through us, to create beauty." When you think about it, we want to slip right past the "breaking" part to get to the beauty, but God knows us! His ways are best. I loved the entire post. You wrote from uncanny incite about the churches, God's expectations of us, and how we approach a Holy God in worship. And I got a good visual of you girls getting ready, dressing appropriately, looking beautiful, just doing it right So sweet!

I left you a message at my blog (passionsandsplendor). Jane BG