What Do You Think About This?

I’ve been reading Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts by Harold M. Best.  Speaking of the geography of worship, Best says this:

God in Christ is our eternal dwelling place, yet Christ is one of the stones, the Keystone, in a building made of redeemed stones.  He is both the eternal dwelling place and the chief part of another dwelling place–the Church, whose only life is to dwell in him.  The church is a fellowship of mutually indwelling believers, members of one another.  Finally, each member is a temple, in which Christ comes to dwell as the hope of glory.  Temples within temples within a Temple–mutual indwelling, the surety of which is as fixed as the very being of God and as far removed from forsakenness and desolation as the east is from the west.  How else can futile words deal with this rich truth?

Then, in the next chapter, relating to corporate worship, Best seeks to bring down to earth the seeming mysticism of the previous concept with the following words:

Mutual indwelling is not only about being in the Spirit.  It is about a world full of redeemed imago Deis individually thinking up and doing things, walking on the ground, bound to their hours and days, exulting in the richness and cleaning up the shards around them, worshiping continuously.  It is about the body of Christ taking sensuous delight, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, working, thinking things up, playing jazz, smelling leather and feeling nubby wool, eating stuffed pork chops, listening to Bach and looking at Vermeers, mowing lawns, swing-dancing, smelling a rose, kissing babies, hugging a colt, buying birthday presents and reading George Herbert.  It is about the colors, the vestments, the banners, the sounds and smells, the music, the bricks and mortar of church and altar–vigorous and often startlingly artistic signs of how little we yet know and how much we want to declare the glory of the Lord.  In these we join the creation in its irrepressible witness (Ps 19).

Mutual indwelling is about countless people in shoulder-to-shoulder intimacies: church suppers, family outings, voting, barn raisings, boat rides, garage sales, Fourth of July cookouts, parades, hopscotch, town meetings, triple-A baseball, homecoming, weddings and funerals.  Mutual indwelling is the body of Christ swept up in God’s extraordinary cleverness, in his peculiar love for making measurable, finite things: flesh and bone, galaxies, field daisies, giant sequoias, spring rains, sparrows, giant squid, icebergs, summer savory, rain forests, caves, clouds and cougars.

I have no doubt that the deeper we go into the unseen things of faith, hope and love, the more we will revel in the temporal stuff of life, the intertwining of divine and human handiwork, the sights and sounds of earth and art.  Christians should be as delighted in the things of sight and sense as God is himself, when at the instant of every creational act, he declares goodness to be observable, enjoyable and usable.  Of all people, Christians should have the best noses, the best eyes and ears, the most open joy, the widest sense of delight.  That the opposite is often the case is no fault of the Lord’s.  How interesting that God, in correcting the ruminations of Job and his three advisers, turned to his work as Imaginer and Maker rather than to his holiness.  The Creator’s nose has never been pinched, nor his delight in his handiwork held at arm’s length because he is a Spirit.  How could anyone shy away from the dance of the creation, even in its pain, when God put the highest benediction on it by giving his Son a cardiovascular system, a brain, kidneys, a digestive system, muscles, taste buds, ears, fingerprints, genitals and toes?

The moment Christians begin to be suspicious of the temporal and to withdraw into a vaporous world of ungrounded piety, they begin to miss the wholeness of spirituality and the fullness of mutual indwelling.  I realize the danger in what I am saying: that all of the created and creative delights into whose company we are invited can squeeze out the unseen, the things of the Spirit.  They can do this, I know.  Then we have worldliness; we are of the world, not simply in it.  We enter into a state of inverted begottenness–creature shaping creature.  We slide into oneness with, and then submission to, the very things over which we are commanded to be sovereign.  We are then idolaters.  But this does not have to be.

What do you think about this concept of mutual indwelling in relation to worship?  I think that this is an often-neglected, yet essential aspect of worship that we need not only to discuss but embrace and live out.

Oh, and if you liked this excerpt, buy the book.  The other 225 pages are just as thought-provoking.

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