30 November 2010

Feelings Fail

Like most people, I'm desperate for intimacy with God, so my instinct is to glom onto prayers and songs that make God seem close. But when I begin here, I am tempted to identify God with the warm feelings such prayers and songs generate. I sing a "worshipful" song, and I get "worshipful" feelings--and I assume that's God. Do this habitually, thoughtlessly, prayerlessly, and it's easy to end up with a relationship with a glorified self.

But the liturgy puts a brake on narcissism right up front. When we are forcefully reminded that we are not worshiping an idealized form fo the self, but a God, "in heaven," a "holy" God, a genuine Other.

Mark Galli, Beyond Smells and Bells, p. 43

This has been a great read so far, and Mark hits several points that are "draws" to me to Anglicanism as antidotes for what I see as weakness in contemporary spirituality.

God is not like us. If he were, there would be little reason to worship him. We are made in his image, but he is holy. That, all by itself, sets an impassable gulf of difference between us.

Yet, by his mercy and grace, he sent his only Son, to be called Emmanuel--God with us. To span the divide and pay the debt we could not pay. If Jesus only had done what we could have done, again, what would be the significance?

But God does what we cannot. He saves us from sin and death. He delivers us from ourselves and from guilt and shame. He is both holy and wholly "other." Therefore, we worship him. Therefore we long to know him more, and in this context we gain intimacy.

Deliberate liturgy delivers us from a slide to narcissism and creating God in our image. It raises our vision to heaven.