Saturday, 30 July 2011


For my next item about Brian McLaren's book, 'Naked Spirituality', I'm going to look at what many people call 'worship'; joining together with other Christians to praise God using music, dance, visuals and other media. As an aside, I'm not keen on using the word 'worship' to describe singing songs and so forth, for reasons that are explained here. But on to McLaren. He says, drawing from the Psalms (e.g. Ps 16:11), that connecting with God is 'as if we are plugging our souls into a pure current of high-voltage joy'. God is a joyful being, McLaren adds, and (illustrated with a couple of pictures from the Brick Testament):

When we tap into the joy of the Lord, when we step into the pure joy that burns like a billion galaxies in the hear of God, we'll soon find ourselves shouting, dancing, singing, leaping, clapping, swaying, laughing, and otherwise jubilating and celebrating.

Doesn't it make sense, then, for Trinitarian Christians like me to define worship as joining in the eternal, joyful celebration that erupts continuously among Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Is it any wonder that Jesus, describing the kingdom of God, conceived of it as party, feast, banquet, festival?

Returning to the point about that word 'worship', McLaren does go on to say that our singing and celebrating really need to expand into a way of life. As Paul urges in Romans 12, we should give our bodies to God because of all he has done for us. This is truly the way to worship God, Paul says. Regarding how we can offer our whole lives to God, McLaren gives seven ways. I'm tempted to write about all of them but here's a little bit about the one that particularly struck me; giving God the joy of our creativity. We're all creative in one way or another, whether it's writing poetry, playing a musical instrument, gardening, cooking, dancing, woodworking, car maintenance... But what do you think of this point ?
Probably, in whatever you do, you apologise: it's not very good... I'm just an amateur... I never took any lessons... I really do it just for myself. My guess is that you do this for the same reason I do: I really love my creative pursuits, and they are unspeakably precious to me, and the thought of them being evaluated or criticised or even mocked by others is so distressing that I decide to pre-empt the criticism of others with my own disparagement.

This idea had not struck me consciously before, and yet I do play down my own creative efforts. I think there's something in what McLaren says about why this is; it's an attempt to avoid or reduce the sting of any criticism that might come my way. McLaren's suggestion on this is remarkably simple, I think:
Let's apologise less and create more. Let's think of creating for the approval of others less, and for the pleasure of God more. Think of the little girl who draws a picture for her mother. She uses crayons to compose crude stick figures – a blue person, a red car, a green and brown tree, a purple house, a yellow sun with squiggly lines radiating out from it. And what does her mother do? Critique it? No, she uses magnets to display it on the refrigerator, where it may stay until the girl graduates from high school. What if God is more like that mother than the critics we fear? What could give our Creator more pleasure than our creative offerings?

McLaren adds another fabulous anecdote of how young children love to show their parents what they're doing. 'Dad, watch this!', they cry as they climb the playground slide or ride their trike around the garden. We could try to live like this with God, McLaren, suggests, showing off in a sense, but not egotistically; instead it is 'humbly, generously and with childlike abandon seeking to bring pleasure to the One who gave me life'. Worth a go, I think!

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