I’ve been watching brightly coloured leaves from the trees in my garden rain down in front of my window. As the breeze catches them and sends them sailing through the air it reminds me of pictures of the ticker tape parades in the streets of New York after a great victory. The flash of gold and orange and red leaves in the air suddenly reminded me of a dream I had.
In this dream a man who taught me how to be aware of the many ways God communicates joined me. He stood behind me, put his hands on my back by my waist, and started propelling me forward. I felt like I was a few inches above the ground traveling quite quickly. He pushed me toward a run-down drinking establishment on a downtown street. I assumed we were going there to minister to the people inside. That was fine with me. But we just popped in for a minute. He said hi and the people all waved and shouted back to him like he was a favourite in this place.
He kept pushing me. We left the bar and moved up a hill toward a large cathedral. This surprised me because I thought he was the sort of person who would reject religious trappings to do the kind of things Jesus did with the poor and marginalized.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“I want to show you something,” he said.
We went into the cathedral through a side door. Light streamed down into the building from high clerestory windows. The scene amazed me. The air was full of glitter and gold streamers and sparkling jewels and even balloons. The people wore all sorts of clothing from every Christian expression from brocade robes to English white choirboy ruffles to modest plain clothing with head covering to jeans and t-shirts. I saw many shiny instruments: trumpets, a pipe organ, guitars, harps, tambourines…
They were all focused on praising God. There was a sense of overwhelming joy and they worshiped with everything they had. Some danced, some waved flags, some gazed upwards and quietly prayed, some marched in a procession, some waved incense, some knelt, some lay prostrate, but all were lost in wonder and praise. There was no self-consciousness. But they all sang one song.
My companion was very happy. He raised his hands and gave glory to the Father. Then I realized he was no longer just my friend. He was the Lord Jesus himself – and this was a temple of praise. Then the people there recognized him too and the cheers grew even louder. The very atoms in the atmosphere seemed more alive!
I woke up.
This week I read two great blogs. One by Sarah Bessey talked about regaining the freedom to worship in the style she had grown up with (Go ahead, wave your flag), and the other, by Adrian Warnock, was an older blog (I Don’t Want Balance; I Want It All) about not wanting to reject expressions and understandings in order to gain “balance,” but wanting it all. As I remembered this dream that’s the sense I had too. No single mode of worship is adequate, no single denomination’s doctrine can contain every facet of the immensity of God. No single institution is without human error as long as humans are trying to run it. All are in need of purification – some more than others, but we need not reject everything after we find something that misses the mark. We especially need to honour the the truths others before us have discovered, and especially the things others do better than ourselves.
I’ve been struggling with understanding what church is, what unity is. Division in the body of Christ breaks my heart. My problem is not so much settling on which local church to join as it is deciding which ones I will reject if I cling to only a single form of expression. Each “church,” even a home-based church, seems to be isolated from others by self-protective berms of forms or constitutions or habits. I’ve been pretty discouraged by how far the institutional church has strayed from the simple, beautiful words of Christ. I think the greatest mission field in North America is amongst those who have experienced manipulative spiritual abuse at the hands of personal power-seekers in “Christian” churches. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong tower.” I’ve been ready for God to toss the whole thing out and start entirely new. This dream shocked me and confronted my judgmental attitude.
I think this is what the dream was telling me: It’s not about doing church “right” or even doing the works we were created to do right. It’s not about how, or where, or when. It’s not about even about what. It’s about WHO.
Unity of the spirit is about losing ourselves in the wonder of Majesty. The Holy Spirit propels us to center our focus on Christ, and Christ ushers us into the presence of Father God. When the strings of our heart respond to the same frequency by singing the same song heaven is singing we come into alignment with his heart. We drop every thought of competition, every need to work to prove we are worthy of God’s approval – that Dad likes us best. We can each express our love and adoration in different ways. His Majesty charges the atoms that give us life.
When we lose ourselves in Him we are one in the Spirit.
We are one in the Lord.