Walk Softly in the Sanctuary

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When I was a kid, growing up in the church, I heard a lot of phrases like: “Walk softly in the sanctuary.” “Talk quietly in the church.” “Be reverent” There was always a strong emphasis on reverence, (which basically just meant being quiet). I have since learned reverence is so much more than that. I can certainly respect the intentions, I believe mostly good, of drawing ones attention to the holiness of God, and to revere it. But real awe and reverence cannot be mandated, or forced. It is natural response when ordinary meets extraordinary. When natural meets supernatural. When our filthiness collides with His holiness. When our finite meets His infinite. When we know we should be thrown out with the evening garbage, but instead we are treasured. This is why when Isaiah gets a glimpse of God, “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. He cries out “Woe to me!” “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:4–5). The angels did not have to tell Isaiah to “shush.” No one likes to be shushed. The angels did not have to tell Isaiah to be in awe. When Isaiah saw heaven he was in awe.

Frederick Buechner expounds on “awe” in his book, “Whistling in the Dark” He tells the story of seeing redwood trees for the first time. “There were some small children nearby, giggling and chattering and pushing each other. Nobody had to tell them to quiet down as we entered. They quieted down all by themselves. Everybody did. You could not hear a sound of any kind.

Two or three hundred feet high the redwoods stood. You had to crane your neck back as far as it would go to see the leaves at the top. They made their own twilight out of the bright California day. There was a stillness and stateliness about them that seemed to become part of you as you stood there stunned by the sight of them. They had been growing in that place for going on two thousand years. With infinite care they were growing even now. You could feel them doing it. They made you realize that all your life you had been mistaken. Oaks and ashes, maples and chestnuts and elms you had seen for as long as you can remember, but never until this moment had you so much as dreamed what a tree really was.

‘Behold the man’, pilot said when he led Jesus out where everybody could see him. He can’t have been much to look at after what they’d done to him by then, but my guess is that, even so, there suddenly fell over that mob a silence as awed as ours in the forest when for the first time in their lives they found themselves looking at a Human Being” (1).

I believe if we focused more energy and time on creating an atmosphere that is awe-inspiring, instead of cold and boring, we’d see more of the reverence we keep soliciting. That maybe the reason the congregation is not singing is because the people leading the songs are not inspired, or inspiring. Maybe if the preachers stopped getting on their soapboxes and started pointing to the attractions of Jesus more people would be left speechless. People would find themselves in awe as they gain a glimpse of God, for perhaps the first time. If a redwood tree can leave you in awe, imagine what a peek of the one who created the redwoods would do. I want to see people so, utterly, taken back by the church’s love for them that you can hear a pin drop. That’s the kind of reverence I want. Not the kind that is mandated or forced, but the kind that leaves you breathless, wanting more. Where the details of the program are lost in the absolute radiance of the person, Jesus Christ! Then we can join in with the seraphim and say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

 

  1. Buechner, Frederick,“Whistling in the Dark” Harper and Row

2 thoughts on “Walk Softly in the Sanctuary

  1. I am appreciative of this article. YAHWEH is shock and awe. His presence extracts from us supreme maximum adoration and devotion. Worship is our divinely inspired efforts to create the environment where EL SHADDAI will feel comfortable showing Himself. Someone said that we don’t see things as they are, but as we are. Worship has quiet contemplation which seems to be our focus to the exclusion of praise. Praise is often an orphan in our churches. But Thou art Holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. We have reason to believe that our God inhabits praise. Psalms 22:3. Sometimes we distort reverence to an extreme degree whereas we conjure heavenly behavior that is actually absent in the biblical texts. Nowhere in scripture is an angel whispering or tiptoeing. Often in many instances angels are described in joyous, boisterous, ecstatic expressions of adoration and worship. We neglect to highlight these extravagant behaviors to focus on a cultural bias that is a legacy of Catholicism. We don’t preach the joyful noise of the Psalms. We actually exclude most of the praise idioms of scripture. After the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus there is recorded an antiphonal celebration. When we get to the summation of all of scripture in Revelation, Praise reaches a zenith. Revelation 4:8-11, 5:8-14, 7:9-12, 19:1, 4-7,etc…… All of the allusions to loud voice are not metaphor. There is often an awesome amount of loud response to the acts of God Almighty in the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. Yes, of course worship does have silent quiet times for prayer reflections. Habakkuk 2:20 describes a period when God wants to communicate with Israel and He wants their undivided attention. When YAHWEH is preaching we should be quiet. But we emphasize a few texts to the exclusion of a plethora of wholehearted praise epistles. I position to you that this is not only a cultural bias, but also a catholic hegemony that has serepticiously embedded itself into our liturgy. Consider that in the worship of our Creator/Redeemer, praise is an established behavior in scripture, and whispering and tiptoeing are foreign concepts in scripture.

  2. I am appreciative of this article. YAHWEH is shock and awe. His presence extracts from us supreme maximum adoration and devotion. Worship is our divinely inspired efforts to create the environment where EL SHADDAI will feel comfortable showing Himself. Someone said that we don’t see things as they are, but as we are. Worship has quiet contemplation which seems to be our focus to the exclusion of praise. Praise is often an orphan in our churches. But Thou art Holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. We have reason to believe that our God inhabits praise. Psalms 22:3. Sometimes we distort reverence to an extreme degree whereas we conjure heavenly behavior that is actually absent in the biblical texts. Nowhere in scripture is an angel whispering or tiptoeing. Often in many instances angels are described in joyous, boisterous, ecstatic expressions of adoration and worship. We neglect to highlight these extravagant behaviors to focus on a cultural bias that is a legacy of Catholicism. We don’t preach the joyful noise of the Psalms. We actually exclude most of the praise idioms of scripture. After the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus there is recorded an antiphonal celebration. When we get to the summation of all of scripture in Revelation, Praise reaches a zenith. Revelation 4:8-11, 5:8-14, 7:9-12, 19:1, 4-7,etc…… All of the allusions to loud voice are not metaphor.

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