Sacred Mystery

Thingamabob, doomahickey, whatchamacallit—just a few of the words I use when I’m at a loss for other more concrete ones. Advanced academic degrees notwithstanding, I am often at a loss to describe the simplest of objects. That same dumbfoundedness is the common experience of all authentic worship. Much of what passes for religion these days is too easily explained; holy stuttering is in short supply in post modernity. Very little mystery remains after singing choruses in rounds and learning five points for upgrading one’s life, making church more akin to Wall Street than the Via Dolorosa. “Worship” services (I confess I’ve never understood why they are termed “services”—who  exactly is serving and being served anyway?) follow a well rehearsed schedule, such that if the Holy Spirit is to show up at all, He had better take care of business in an hour. Performance claims the prize and somehow we have convinced ourselves that grand productions draw ‘seekers’ to the Gospel, like so many moths to the flame. Conventional wisdom would dictate that if I am looking for slick entertainment I will always find it somewhere other than church, irregardless of how much you spend to convince me otherwise. 

Whatever happened to sacred mystery? The answer may well explain the evangelical impotence evident on many fronts. When did we decide that we could package the Holy Other into bite size portions, easily digested, and just as readily forgotten? When was the last time that a glimpse of the Suffering Savior or the Conquering Christ seized your heart and wouldn’t let go? How long has it been since the Ground of all Being grabbed you and you couldn’t speak or cry or move in response? If I am able to fully plan and explain worship, the object must be something other than “The One Who Was and Is and Is To Come.” True worship elicits wonder, and wonder eventually gives way to transformation.

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:1-5, KJV)

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