Rediscovering Reverence

Today, for the first time in a long time, I visited a church.

I say the first time in a long time, because, for the past nearly seven years, my husband and I were members of a particular church and attended pretty much whenever the doors were open. Recently, however, we felt God's move on our hearts to leave that particular congregation. We weren't sure exactly where God was leading us. We just knew He was moving. So we followed.

Today, my husband and I (along with our daughter, and a friend and her son) visited an Anglican church.

I will be the first to admit that I am by no means an expert in the difference of doctrines or church origins. All I know is that the Anglican church is a sort of outgrowth of the Catholic church that came about during the time of King Henry VIII and the English Reformation. I also know that the Anglican church is a lot more liturgical than almost any other church I've been to (save my grandma's church, which is Episcopal, which is the sister of the Anglican church).

Now, my husband grew up Nazarene, and I...well, I grew up going to a wide variety of churches, from Baptist, to Assemblies of God, to Church of God, to Non-denominational, to Church of Christ. I've been exposed to a lot of different versions of the Body of Christ. This was probably both a good and bad thing for me. I've encountered a lot of diversity in worship, but I also have no clue about the doctrinal background of pretty much any of the afore-mentioned denominations.

When my husband and I married, we decided to go to a Nazarene church. He grew up knowing the denomination, we met at a Nazarene made sense. And so, for the past nearly ten years, I have considered myself Nazarene (though I've been a bad Nazarene and haven't really learned much about the denomination as a whole).

Based on my background (or personal "church history"), choosing to try an Anglican church may seem strange. I come from what you might call a "charismatic" background, where the churches tend to embrace "freedom of worship" more than structured, liturgical services. I've attended many services that were really just several-hours-long worship services, because "the Spirit moved." This is awesome. I love it when the Spirit moves. But I've found over the past several years that the Spirit does not need a lack of structure in order to move. And I've come to feel that many churches fall into one extreme of too little structure, too much freedom; or the other of too much structure, too little freedom. It's either too stiflingly structured, or it's chaos, and there's so much going on that you can't feel the Spirit moving.

The church we visited today was, I believe, a good balance of the two extremes.

I've been realizing slowly over the last several years that deep devotion and liturgy woo me to Christ best. Sure, I love a good worship service. Music speaks to my soul. I love praise and worship bands, and good music, just like the next person. But I've felt that there's a huge lack of reverence when it comes to approaching God. Yes, Jesus is our best friend, who sticks closer than a brother. He broke down the walls that kept us from approaching God. We can now approach the throne of grace boldly, with confidence. But God is still awesome, worthy to be feared and praised. He is mighty, wondrous, amazing. We should be awe-struck to even think to be in the presence of the Creator-God who sent His Son to save us.

That reverence is what I've been missing in churches. And that reverence is what I found today in the Anglican church we attended.

To quote an email I sent to a friend earlier today:

"The first thing that struck me was the unison chanting of the Psalm. It was a long psalm, and I wondered how it could "hold people's attention" by singing the same chord progression over and over and over for that many verses. But by about the third stanza/verse, I realized that there was some kind of amazing power in this unison chanting. People started getting a little freer, actually worshiping through the chanting of the Psalm. I heard a couple of voices begin to harmonize, other voices grow in strength and passion. I was intrigued.

I must admit that, when the Bible was brought ceremoniously down the center aisle for the gospel to be read, I got chills. Congregants bowed their heads as the Bible passed by them; there was such reverence and respect for the Word of God. [...]

For the first time today since I was in elementary school (I think), I took communion with wine. The real stuff. Not grape juice. This was something else that made me think, made me internalize some things. I've never really understood why wine was necessary for communion. I'm not a drinker - I don't particularly like the flavor of alcohol. But the bitterness of the wine - the pungent flavor on my tongue as I chewed my wafer - reminded me of the bitterness of blood, the pain Jesus felt when he died, the weight of the sins of the world."

There were other things that affected me during the service, but alas, this post is already long enough. Attending an Anglican church today, though, taught me that ritual and tradition is okay. There absolutely can be freedom in worship in a structured setting. And I firmly believe that, at least for some, the structure actually helps people focus more on the most important thing: God, through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. 

I completely believe, also, that different formats of worship (and different denominations) exist because they call to different people. Just as people have different personalities, I think that people have different ways of worshiping. If we all worshiped God the same way, life would be pretty boring. So I am by no means knocking any denomination, because I think that God uses everything for His glory, and every denomination does some kind of good, and brings people to Christ.

Liturgy seems to be my thing. I can do charismatic, evenagelical services all you want me to. But it seems that, for me, the quiet reverence of a liturgical service speaks to my heart the most.

I will be still

Call me crazy, but I've been thinking about monasticism.

Not to become a nun or anything, of course. I mean, come on, I'm married. The vow of chastity would be out the window in a minute.

But on a more serious note, there is a lot in the monastic lifestyle that intrigues me, or calls to me, if you will. With the lifestyle comes a certain amount of peace, solitude, stillness. A contemplativeness that transcends the busyness of life and focuses on God and God alone.

This is what interests me.

I find that I often get too caught up in "doing" and "going" and forget to be still and know that God is God. And this is the most important thing for us to do.

In chapter ten of the book of Luke, Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus' feet and listens to him, while Martha busies herself with, presumably, household chores - things that do need to get done, in a practical sense (especially when one is entertaining Jesus - "My goodness, those dishes aren't clean! Can't have the Messiah eating on that!"). But while Martha is upset that the majority of the chores have fallen to her, Jesus tells her that " thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42, HCSB).

Right there, Jesus is speaking not only to Martha, but to all of the Marthas in the world (men included!). We all get too caught up in the "doing" sometimes, and we all need a reminder that it is okay - actually preferable and vitally important - to sit at Jesus' feet and just listen.

I couldn't just drop my life and go live in a monastery. I have legitimate responsibilities that I have already committed to (such as my husband). But I think it is feasible to bring a bit of the monastic experience into my life. Yes, it will be difficult to turn off the computer after the fourth time checking my email and playing Geo Challenge on Facebook. Yes, my husband is hungry and wants dinner now. Yes, there are a whole host of other things just waiting to be done.

But what is more important: a casserole, Or the King of Kings? My husband, or the Lover of my soul?

Jesus is important enough to make time for. I have no excuse to not make time for him. If he is truly my All in All, then shouldn't I be giving him my time?

This is my goal this year, an early New Year's resolution, I suppose. I am determined to be conscious and aware of my days, of how I spend my time. I want to live my life with purpose and intention, and I don't want to do anything that will pull me away from God and into the busyness and chaos that screams for my attention.

I will be still.