Sunday, August 21, 2016

Elemental Chaos and the Presence of God (The Presence-Driven Church)

Cloud formation, Monroe County

Gordon Fee called it the "presence motif." It runs throughout Scripture like a holy river, from its source in Genesis to the glassy sea of Revelation.

It's in the garden in Genesis 1 and the final adoration chapters of Revelation. It's in the Psalmist doorkeeper's desire and the Pauline "in Christ."

Moses refuses to move without it.

Jesus tells his disciples to primordially abide in it.

Fee refers to it as "God's empowering presence."

It's "Emmanuel, God with us" as an experiential reality rather than a theological theory.

Don't mistake it for performance. It has nothing to do with entertainment. Instead of an audience voting with their thumbs, faces are on the ground. To know this earth-shattering presence one must be stripped and restored like a piece of wood undergoing sandpaper and knife.

Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"It takes profound willingness to invite God to search us and know us at the deepest level of our being, allowing him to show us the difference between the performance-oriented drivenness of the false self and the deeper calling to lead from our authentic self in God. There is an elemental chaos that gets stirred up when we have been in God’s presence enough that we can recognize pretense and performance and every other thing that bolsters our sense of self. It is unnerving to see evidence that these patterns are still at work—perhaps just a bit more subtly—in our everyday lives." (Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 126)

For the past forty years I have taken every Tuesday afternoon to place myself before The Restorer of My Soul. This Tuesday, for the two thousandth time, I will pray "Search me, O God, and know my heart."

He will. He does.

He overturns the tables of salesmanship and drives the market downward.

He crucifies any residual performance-drivenness.

In his presence I am stripped away.

He restores my soul.