We gazed silently alongside an uncountable amount of people groups. The oddity was not in the differences of those of us present but, rather, in the symmetry of what we all felt. We were struck by something awesome.
The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring, and its grandeur moved us by its mystery.
God is the same way. God is always more than we can comprehend, always “holy other” to our imaginations. God is always slightly beyond our grasp, so when we come face-to-face with the Divine, we are moved by the experience.
Rudolf Otto once said that people intersecting with mystery respond in one or two ways: with fear or with awe. What he means is that when we bump into what we do not understand, it is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, and we either push it away or lean into it.
The same is true for church. We all know people who have run away from the institutional church for one reason or another. They are either terrified of the complexities of faith or they fear the church’s packaged, ready-made answers no longer satisfy their complex context. Either way, they are missing out on how people groups encounter the holy.
We encountered God’s mystery together during my call weekend in June. I will never forget that the opening hymn was God of Grace and God of Glory. When the organ hit the last verse with gusto, I looked out to an almost max capacity congregation and was moved by the holiness of the moment. I saw how the mysteries of God manifest themselves through the worship of a local church, and I told Noelle, “Surely God is in this place.”
I have thought about that worship experience almost daily since. It compels me to think of faith in this new way: “Faith is awe in the face of mystery, and the local church (when at its best) incubates it.”
In other words, faith is accepting the mysteries of God as always beyond while still seeking to encounter awe in community.
More needs to be said about this, but I will resist until August 10. Please know that Noelle, Henry, and I are excited about sharing in more holy moments together. My prayer continues to be that we will be a church that does not cause people to push away from faith but, rather, to lean in.
If we can do this, our future together will be awesome. Here’s to looking forward with faith!