Posted tagged ‘numinous’


June 9, 2015
Amazedly young woman with open mout. Close up of surprised gril isolated on white

Amazedly young woman with open mout. Close up of surprised gril isolated on white

Do you ever try to explain the impossible? Have you ever started to describe something only to run completely adrift of any words that would appropriately reflect what it is you want to verbalize? As a writer of sorts I sometimes find that I have painted myself into a proverbial corner trying to articulate something that seems to defy written or verbal depiction. As passionate as I may or may not be at times, I have notions for which I cannot find verbiage. I find this to often be the case when attempting to describe the numinous encounter of Christian worship. That very word, “numinous,” in fact is for me a result of trying to find words to describe the indescribable. So very often there is just a gap there between spiritual encounter and descriptive words. I well may sense an encounter with God is real and the biblical record affirms that we can know the presence of the living God. But an encounter with the Almighty by the presence of His Holy Spirit made possible because of the work of His Son Jesus is as nothing else in the human experience. It is as a miracle. You might say it is other worldly. How can we help fellow believers toward such an encounter? How do we gather in liturgical community to share the Lord’s presence and goodness?

Leaders in the church’s practice of worship give themselves to bridging this gap, helping worshipers with words, melodies, and prayers that will aid communion with Holy God. Even though words for its description seem to continually escape us we still purpose to link worshipers with the Worshiped. Great care must be taken that our terminology points toward the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We dare not give in to the temptation of manipulating an emotive experience to mimic worship. The subject and object of Christian worship is God in Three Persons. Focusing on the experience itself makes a mockery of the real thing and robs genuine worship of what words we do have for its description. I would caution that we pay close attention to how we publicize our worship gatherings. Certainly there are times when our worship may well be exciting, lively, dynamic, and celebratory, but focusing on these aspects may well imply we are engaged in something that is self-serving. Does not worship call us to die to self, and bring us in to then send us out?

The mystery of spiritual encounter in worship is one of the reasons we turn to the arts to aid our expression. Musicologists and music therapists know something of the intrinsic value of music in human processes such as healing, learning, grieving, and jubilation. In Christian worship we encounter each of these at one time or another, and in light of biblical truth we encounter them as formation into kingdom people. Ultimately this is our worship, to know and do the will of our God. To become like Christ, and live Eucharistic (grateful) lives in response to Him fleshes out our worship. Hymns of the faith, ancient and modern, give opportunity for making community by participation in the answer to Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, “that they would be one.” Transformation does not only come in relation to one life of one worshiping singer, but formation takes place in molding together many members into one body.

In her book, Royal Waste of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World, Marva Dawn talks about the need for a catechumenal process in contemporary culture. The process is needed to train our sensibilities and thinking. This is one reason care must be taken when our leaders imitate the popular culture with art forms. With those forms come implied value systems. The world we live in practices a different liturgy, one of self indulgence. But there is a longing within the human heart placed there by the God Who created us, and Who is Himself the only satisfaction to the very same yearning. C.S. Lewis uses the German term, Sehnsucht, a restless longing for fulfillment, a yearning, to describe that longing. St. Augustine prayed, “Oh Lord, thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” May our worship serve to build the Church into a unified reflection of Christ. May our psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs serve as means of spiritual encounter, and give voice to expressions words seem unable to speak.

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