Last Friday, I had a chance to attend Great Vespers at the local Antiochian Orthodox church. For one hour, I became lost in a liturgy that (I’m guessing) traces its origins back to the early centuries of the first millennium. And I sensed the presence of God’s spirit more than I have in weeks, if not months.
I know, I know. Some of you wouldn’t have shared that experience. It would have seemed forced, stale, even boring. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot since Friday.
People meet God in a dizzying array of places. Some in liturgies, some in silence, some in acapella music, some through the stylings of modern rock. Some of us have a sense that he is present, speaking to us. Others never "hear" a thing. Still others come to know God when they serve the oppressed.
For the most part, these experiences will resonate with some of us, and they will be totally lost on others.
Is there something wrong with this?
I don’t think so. Instead, I think that God "comes at" us in many ways. I’ve come to appreciate beautiful things about God through the rigorous, systematic study of scripture. Others haven’t. But unlike me, someone else may touch the heart of God as a result of fervent prayer and worship in a Charismatic church.
The key, I think, is not to criticize each other, but to savor the richness of God’s revelation. We should celebrate each others’ experiences, even when we do not share them.
God’s spirit is present in any place where he is sought. The prayer of the moment and the centuries-old liturgy are both gifts from the Spirit. And we should not be surprised to find him present in either case.