Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Where I would most rather be

So I have seen  you in the sanctuary,
 and beheld your power and glory.

Psalm 62(63):2

Where would I most rather be?  How about you?  Most people might answer with some tropic paradise, or perhaps a ski vacation, maybe a favorite relative or mountain retreat or perhaps simply, "Anywhere but here!".  Where would I most rather be?  Heaven.  My hope and my home.

I have always felt this way as long as I can remember.  The Apostle Peter's words have always struck a cord with me when he called us "pilgrims and exiles" (1 Peter 2:11).  That is how I've always felt here on this planet.  Perhaps there is something of this feeling in a lot of people.  Maybe this is why people are always buying into vacation clubs, changing jobs, marriages, homes, even countries.  Because we all know, deep down inside, that we don't really belong here.

That is why Sunday is so special to me.  It is that one time of the week were I get to step out of this world and into the other.  I get to see and experience my real home for just a few hours. I few very, very short hours.

There are a couple of things I should clarify here.  Although I have always loved going to church (since becoming a disciple of Jesus), and I have always felt a bit closer to my home while there, it wasn't until I visited (and subsequently started attending) an Eastern Orthodox church that I felt even closer to my home than ever before.  I could say here, as would a true and proper Protestant, that it isn't about the icons, the incense, the candles, the chanting, the liturgy, the vestments, etc. But that wouldn't be true.  It is exactly because of all those "things" that I feel closer.  Maybe it was when I first realized this that I also realized I wasn't a very good Protestant. I had, quietly and without much fanfare, become Orthodox. I had slipped beyond the wicket gate and hadn't realized it. I only know that the homesickness I have always felt churning inside of me was suddenly slackened.

As I said, I have always felt closer at Church.  I here only state that I now feel closer than I did before.  For many reading this article you will have no doubt heard people say, "God's not in a building" and "You can find God anywhere".  This is, in a way, quite true. God is omnipresent, so he is by his very nature everywhere.  But the fact is God is more in some places than in others.  The Bible clearly states that God can vacate one place and fill another.  How can he do this and still remain omnipresent?  I don't know.  I don't really care.  I do know that God chooses places to be and invites us to be with him.  I also know that some places are more special to God.  I don't know why that is either.  It just is.  The idea that I can worship God anywhere I want and it is all the same is really the domain of the deist and not a Christian idea at all.  The problem isn't that God can't be anywhere and everywhere, the problem is I have no right to choose where that will be or to call God to allow me to worship him on my terms.  It just doesn't work that way!

So one day I stopped asking myself how I should worship God and started asking God how he wanted me to worship him.  Through more than a ten year long journey I finally participated in my first Easter Orthodox worship service.  For now you will simply have to believe me when I say that I've never experienced anything like that.  I will eventually write more but the experience was so profound that it would be foolish and dangerous for me to attempt to put it into words now.  It has been almost a year and I am still processing that first experience and the many that followed.  Hopefully I will be ready to write soon.

I remember one time, at the church I was attending (and still do from time to time with my family), an elder suggesting we cancel church one Sunday a month to go and help at a local mission. My heart sank to my feet.  I, an elder at the time, made it clear that this was not a good idea and that I would resist such a move.  Why?  Did I hate poor people and people in need?  No, of course not.  But Sunday was the one day I got to come together with God's children and worship him.  The one day I could leave all the pain and misery behind and step into the throne room of our Creator and Father and worship him, visiting my real home, for just a couple of hours.   The thought of losing that, even one day a month, almost sent me into a panic.

I realize that most people don't think this way.  This is why people skip church all the time for games, birthday parties, trips, sleeping in, etc.  I am not claiming you are sinning by missing church.  I am simply saying that I can't understand how anyone would want to miss it. Yes, some days are harder than others.  Sometimes I have to drag myself out of bed.  But those days are growing fewer and fewer and even on those days I am so eternally grateful I made the effort.

Why do you go to church?  Is it to be with people?  Is it for the worship band?  Is it for the preaching?  Those things can be good reasons to some degree but in the final analysis I found those reasons left me wanting. They left me wanting because they weren't the real reason for going to church.  The real reason was to be with God on his own terms.  When I started looking at it that way everything changed. My whole world reoriented itself!

So...where would you most rather be?

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