Does anyone come to worship expecting to encounter the living God? I mean, not just talk about God or come away with a cozy feeling that one has been loved somehow, but to actually hear the voice of God or catch a glimpse of God’s full glory? My favorite Annie Dillard quote is useful here:
Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, New York: Harper & Row, 1982, pp. 40-41.)
What ought we expect when we come to worship? To ease into some comfortable bubble protected from the difficult world out there? Or to be shaken to the core by the awesome majesty of the God we worship? To be honest, there is nothing wrong with the warm comfort of the presence of God through the caring community that is the church. We don’t mean to suggest setting that aside. But once in a while, we do need to be reminded of what it is that we mean when we speak of the awesome God.
How can we convey something of God’s majesty to a congregation grown too comfortable with the idea of God as a personal savior? What songs can we sing that stretch us into the wonder that is our God? What confessions can we make that admit our tendency to worship a God too small, too convenient to our own understandings and limited vision? What images can we project, what drama can we observe that reminds us of the vastness of our God?
There’s nothing wrong with once in a while leaving the place of worship awestruck. It would become tiring on a weekly basis, but now and then, it is good to tremble at the threshold of the throne of God. What Job encounters in our text this week is a God who overwhelms and transforms him, even in the depth of his pain. What else do we have to offer than that?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.