Sterile Praise and Meaningless Wow


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January 28, 2017

We live in an age of trivia and superficiality.

We clamor for amusement.

Something I read earlier this year, written by the Pope, has stayed with me:

“A fundamental element of Pentecost is astonishment. Our God is a God of astonishment, this we know. No one expected anything more from the disciples: after Jesus’ death they were a small, insignificant group of defeated orphans of their Master. There occurred instead an unexpected event that astounded: the people were astonished because each of them heard the disciples speaking in their own tongues, telling of the great works of God (cf. Acts 2:6-7, 11). The Church born at Pentecost is an astounding community because, with the force of her arrival from God, a new message is proclaimed — the Resurrection of Christ — with a new language — the universal one of love. A new proclamation: Christ lives, he is risen; a new language: the language of love. The disciples are adorned with power from above and speak with courage — only minutes before they all were cowardly, but now they speak with courage and candour, with the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

“Thus the Church is called into being forever: capable of astounding while proclaiming to all that Jesus Christ has conquered death, that God’s arms are always open, that his patience is always there awaiting us in order to heal us, to forgive us. The risen Jesus bestowed his Spirit on the Church for this very mission.”

Take note: if the Church is alive, she must always surprise. It is incumbent upon the living Church to astound. A Church which is unable to astound is a Church that is weak, sick, dying, and that needs admission to the intensive care unit as soon as possible!”

Some mornings I go to Sacred Space for time with God. (And yes, there’s an app.) Related to the quote above, recently I saw this: “Without a sense of wonder, our praise of God will be sterile.”

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Sterile.

How often have you felt your relationship with God, people, and reality was sterile? It’s an empty experience, isn’t it?

When was the last time you saw something astonishing in your life with God and with His people? What can be explained by nothing but the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in your church? (How about in you?) Are people praying and waiting on God? Or rather, do they go dutifully through a series of religious exercises, dictated by habit?

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We don’t need astonishment for the sake of astonishment. We need the presence of the Living God, which will result in God-things taking place. We need to be less self-dependent and more God-dependent. What’s better: God-things or human-things?

Jesus, when He walked here, said “Without me you can do nothing.” Do you believe that? Do you live like you believe that? Did He talk just to hear His vocal chords vibrate? He did and said all with purpose.

We live in a blasé age. Astonishment has suffered inflation. We are astonished by athletic and artistic talent. We revel in trivia. We worship human accomplishment, maybe not remembering that human accomplishment and gifting is a reflection of the Imagio Dei.

Our astonishment is cheap. We look for clickbait amusement, the latest obscure happening. Our lack of true, heart-level astonishment results in silly, shouted, overblown headlines.

So now we have headline generators to grab people’s attention. What I want to know is, after generating such a headline, what will you write that is worthwhile and brings value to the human condition? I hate these, and have learned to avoid and disbelieve them.

But, what if someone was raised from the dead?

There, now you have some astonishment.

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On the other hand, this is fun but isn’t it a typical 21st century distraction from anything important and which touches the heart? We love pursuing diversion. I wonder what’s the price?

Life transformation is still astonishing. It’s still miraculous. But oblivious to that, we daily search for superlatives, distraction, diversion, something new, something different.

Know why? Because the universal longing in the human heart is for meaning – rich, deep meaning. We will hunt for it for a lifetime, if it’s lacking. The trouble is, it won’t be found in most of the places we look.

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