The Motion of God

There’s a posture, a ‘motion’ if you like, of God that dominates a correct understanding of how the Lord works and that influences how we consider and think about the church.

In my last post in this series filling out my ‘eucharismatic’ manifesto, I argued that the church exists to worship God, and therefore our primary purpose is worshipping God.

However, if you’ve been following along, you might think that this is an odd first step when I have argued that the church is defined by her encounters with God, which seems to shift the focus to us. That’s not right, church isn’t about us, it’s about God.

Except, I’m a Reformed Charismatic; Calvinistic in my understanding of salvation (and more). Which means I want to argue an important point that affects what happens on Sundays, but also everything else in the entire cosmos. It’s this: God always moves first.

When I repent what I discover is that in the counsels of the Almighty God, he first chose me and elected me to life, the Spirit regenerating my heart so that I can respond in faith to his call and repent. When God calls, he makes what he calls for happen.

When I move towards God and meet him, I will always find that he has moved first. God’s kindness is gratuitous, it overflows, what we call grace or gift is how God always works with his people.

It’s because of the Lord’s gracious posture towards us, his movement, that we can speak of the gathered Church as a series of encounters with God, or even of the Church itself as the mystery of the bride encountering the husband, the son encountering the father, the army encountering the general, the Temple bricks encountering the divine presence of Yahweh filling the holy of holies.

When we gather to worship God, he will have graciously ‘presenced’ himself with us. And before you cry that ‘God is everywhere’ and so can’t be especially present, you’re going to need to go and look at the holy of holies again. God has always been omnipresent, and yet he dwelt with his people in the very middle of the Tabernacle tent, sitting enthroned above the cherubim who sit on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant.

The wonder of the curtain torn from top to bottom as Jesus died is not that God’s presence gets out, it’s that we get in. We get in because the manifest presence of God now dwells in his new Temple, the Church.

When we approach God in worship, he approaches us, his gathered people. He does so graciously, to meet us in Word and Sacrament (which includes the words we sing and pray as well as the Word preached, the Water poured and the Wine drunk).

At the same time, there is a danger here in my thought that needs addressing. It would be easy to start to believe that because the church is defined by gracious encounters with the Father through the Son by the Spirit, we should think of church as being about those encounters. It isn’t, we come to worship God.

It’s easy to get this backwards though, I’m sure I do it. Have you ever heard anyone (yourself?) talking about church in terms of what they got out of the meeting? As though it was a pick-me-up or the point was to affect our emotions?

It’s a great thing when the worship of the Lord affects our emotions and it’s a great thing when we feel changed, or our perspective is altered by the Spirit when we gather to worship. We want more of that in every way.

And I firmly believe that if we chase after experiences we won’t find them, but that if we look to worship God in spirit and truth, we will have dramatic and dynamic encounters with God by his Spirit that will change us, change our churches, change our towns and cities, shake the foundations of the earth, challenge the powers successfully, and occasionally be just a little bit strange.

Church is about worshipping God, so come and worship him. Contribute, read a passage of scripture, pray your heart in all its broken glory, weep your eyes out, sing at the top of your lungs, eat the bread and drink the wine, meet Jesus in the pages of the Bible, lay hands on someone else and ask the Spirit to come, hear languages you don’t know be interpreted, hear God’s voice in the scriptures and in prophetic utterance: come to worship the King of Glory, and I can promise you that God will come to his church.

“That was a good meeting!” we tell each other. “The presence of God was really strong!” That’s a beautiful thing and not to be despised. All I want to argue is that it was also a great meeting if God was worshipped, even if everything else was distinctly average.

And yes, since you ask, I am preaching to myself.

Dear friends, worship the Lord, for he is worthy.

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