Fresh Interpretations of Eternal Truths? with @KatieHarrisonTF

I nearly got my eye taken out by a random flag in the summer of 2012.

It wasn’t anything to do with the Jubilee or the Olympics.  I was at a Christian festival where I’d been a seminar speaker at the afternoon and I went along to the evening service knowing that it would be full of passionate people, who were ready to sing their hearts out and enjoy some robust and inspiring preaching.

The flag incident happened during the sung worship when a very nice lady decided that, as well as waving a flag for her own enjoyment, she would hold it over the heads of people that she thought might benefit from a blessing and so prophetically declare the ‘God is my banner’ thing over their lives.

It was a very generous thought.  However, she wasn’t very tall and so there was quite a lot of bumping of heads with said flag and the people being prophetically-flag-waved-over had to stand quite still in order to avoid incidental bruising.

Praise_and_worshipIt’s all a bit reminiscent of Adrian Plass’s books, which came out in my childhood and pretty much epitomised my excruciating embarrassment at almost everything that happened in church.  Much of the embarrassment was due to my being a teenager, to be honest, and therefore utterly appalled by everything my parents and their friends said and did.

But there are lots of things about the many and varied ways to worship God that I find difficult to cope with and even now, in my advancing years of church life, I surprise myself by things that generate a sinking feeling in my heart during a church service.  I’m the Christian version of middle-aged; I know what I like, and I’m sticking with it.

Which is a bit ridiculous, really.

I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that we’re urged on many occasions, especially in the Psalms, to ‘sing a new song’.

Sometimes we have to be open to fresh interpretations of eternal truths.

Like the times when we at Tearfund visit the churches we support in other countries and find ourselves taking part in all sorts of services that we’ve never experienced before. One of the things we advise guests travelling with us is that they should always have a short testimony or inspiring Scripture to share, because the odds are that they’re going to be called on spontaneously by a pastor to deliver a sermon.

One of my colleagues was even welcomed to a church he was visiting by being asked to sing a solo.  There’s culture shock for you.

Church services can of course be wonderful, reverent, healing, joyful, shared experiences of the love and mercy of God and, thankfully, I find myself inspired far more often than I’m embarrassed, both when travelling and when in my home church in the UK.

The story of Eli’s sons in 1 Samuel 2 has always been a salutary reminder to me that, even when something at church is winding me up, the appropriate response is never one of contempt. 

Eli, who was priest in the temple, had sons who were running some sort of scam among the people who would bring a sacrifice to the temple as their act of worship.  They would quibble with people about what they had brought, and take from them the meat they had brought as their offering.

‘This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt’ 1 Samuel 2:17

Laughing at ourselves is fine, of course, and I love these spoof worship leader films on Youtube.  But, whether you’re a flag-cringer or a liturgy-hater, you’re welcome to express your worship in the way that best connects you with God. 

And of course we shouldn’t be scared to change the ways we worship if it’s not working for the community in which we gather; say, for example, people are sustaining injuries from the person next door’s enthusiasm.

But telling people they’re not good enough to be welcomed into the presence of God is not OK. 

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