Myths & Cliches of Christian Spirituality: Intro

I just began a sermon series at UCF (www.ucfbirmingham.org) on “Myths & Cliches of Christian Spirituality” and I plan to post my summary reflections on each myth here at Galadriel’s Mirror.

The foundational material for these “myths” began coming together for me during my second year in campus ministry at Gardner-Webb University.  I was noticing more and more how students were operating out of false notions about God and about themselves, false notions that I readily recognized since I had struggled so much with them myself.  So I preached a message one night at “The Verge” (our weekly worship service) on “The 7 Myths of Christian Spirituality.”

These “myths” were so familiar to me because, under their varied influences, I had years previously found myself stuck on the other side of the world on a wild hare journey that did not end with quite the spiritual lustre for which I had aspired. The awakening was quite rude.

Since that sermon at GWU, I have been writing on these myths, hoping to assemble my thoughts creatively and effectively enough to… well, to piece together something publishable.  And I am still working on to that end….

I will began posting brief synopses of these myths each week as I preach through them at the UCF worship services.

Feedback is enthusastically invited!

~Andy

Terror & Tenderness: Taking Him in… all of Him

[I'm still trying to figure out the exact nature and purpose of Galadriel's Mirror.  As I embark on a new vocational post leading University Christian Fellowship (UCF--www.ucfbirmingham.org), I do intend for the blog to offer material geared toward college students.  So many of the entries will summarize the fruits of study and the ongoing challenges I face in teaching and pastoring these dear young folks.  This entry offers some summary reflections from my preparations for the sermon for this week's service...]

One of the most defining images of God in the Jewish religious imagination (both ancient and modern) is that which is depicted in Exodus 19.  This is the opening scene of YHWH’s gift of the Law Mt. Sinai’s summit.

Quite frankly, the image portrayed is horrifying.

Today, we are quite annoyed with any frightening images of God (there are, of course, the exceptions of those folks who take a sick delight in promoting nothing but nightmarish images of God).  Most of us, however, would seek to quickly smooth over any disturbing notions of God’s identity.

But the thunder, gloom, and terror of Sinai cannot be dismissed.  The eyewitnesses quaked in a divinely-stricken panic.  That scene must haunt us.  It must terrify us, unnerve us.

Some folks (like me actually), tend to have very little problem embracing such an awful (as in ‘awe-full’) image of God.  Certain dispositions are more inclined to view God as a transcendent, untouchable Being perched amidst the dark clouds of an untouchable mountain.

But there is another image that should haunt us, the scene of Jesus, somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, caressing newborn babies (see Luke 18:15-17).

Some of us have no trouble embracing such a tender image as an image of God.  We awaken each day as if in those sweet, gentle arms, the smile of His face warming our spirit.

But the great, exhilarating difficulty is embracing as much as possible the fullness of who God is.  And Scripture portrays Him as both terrifying and tender (it is not that the God of the Old Testament is the big, mean God and Jesus is His nice, sweet Son who finally shows up in the New Testament ).

This is the God whom we serve: One whose presence can not only enlivens a wedding party in Cana, but can also shake the foundations of the mountains.  The God whose weight of glory trembled Sinai is also the One who offered to take up His scattered children as lambs and bear them gently in His bosom (Isaiah 40:11).  The Savior who blessed infants is also the Christ who roared and raged against the Temple’s merchants.  The Spirit who so mightily rushed into the upper room also groans almost imperceptibly as we silently pray.

So our challenge and delight is to embrace a God who is both terrifying and tender, both Savior and Judge, both Exalted Ruler and Suffering Servant.  Grasping such an expansive vision of our Lord will be ever mystifying.  The natural response?

Worship.