Summary: An illustrative look at indicators from Mark 16 of one who has been in the presence of God.
INTO HIS PRESENCE
Some things seem rather strange. I’m not saying they can’t be true, mind you, I’m just saying they don’t seem … normal.
For example: my wife got this catalog in the mail a while back. It is from a vendor who sells various plants and trees you can grow. Some of these got my attention because they seemed … strange.
Like this one … “Five Kinds of apples on the same tree! Your very own apple orchard on one tree!” Now I’m not saying it can’t happen … I’m just saying it aint normal!
Or here’s an even better one; it’s called “The Fruit Salad Tree” and it claims “5 kinds of fruit all on the same tree! Peaches, nectarines, purple plums, apricots and red plums.” It’ll give you “bushels of fruit!”
There are others too; pumpkin trees, giant “skyscraper” sweet corn, and a plant that guarantees to grow over 16,000 blueberries on one bush.
Maybe the youth group’s community garden should look into some of these.
Once again, I am in no position to judge whether this is true … but I am in a position to tell you this isn’t typical of how produce is grown.
Some things seem rather strange. That’s all.
There are other, more significant things that seem strange to me too. For instance, how can a person bless God with one breath and curse another human being with the next. I’m not saying it can’t happen (it obviously does) but it seems strange to me (and to God) that such behavior can coexist. It would appear there is a disconnect in us that does not see the close relationship between the Divine One and those created in his image.
And then there’s another strange-but-true occurrence that is a bit more germane to our final sermon in Mark’s Gospel … HOW CAN A PERSON HAVE AN INTIMATE ENCOUNTER WITH THE LIVING AND LOVING GOD AND NOT BE TRANSFORMED SIGNIFICANTLY?
That is a question I have asked myself all through adulthood … all through my own spiritual pilgrimage. I cannot think of anything that seems more incongruent, less harmonious than this occurrence.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m just saying it aint logical and doesn’t seem like it is the way things were designed to be.
Chapter 16 gives insight (or a snapshot) into the transformation that one can anticipate when they have encountered the living and loving God in an intimate way … not through a book or a speech or some other somewhat detached manner … but through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
As a way of closing the book out … I just want to share some of these with you. You can be the judge of whether or not your relationship with God fits the “normal” or not.
1. AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE LIVING GOD SHOULD STIR YOUR EMOTIONS (16:8)
The after-effects of meeting with God are trembling hands, whirling mind, fluttering heart, and a silenced tongue. It may inspire surprise, wonderment, silence, awe, fear, … it may evoke a myriad of emotions and responses but it seems unlikely that it will leave one completely w/o any affect whatsoever.
How could it?
Many in the Church decry an experience-driven faith experience. Granted, one’s experiences and emotions must be interpreted in light of Scripture and tradition but to say our faith should not be driven by such is to fail to take into account the way we were designed.
Lutheran Pastor Don Matzat states it well:
I believe that we must recognize the legitimate role of feelings and experience in the Christian life. Those who attend churches which offer a feel-good brand of Christianity are not wrong in doing so. Can we blame people who come to the church seeking the experience of love, joy, peace, hope, and contentment in the midst of a world of confusion? Are we willing to acknowledge that perhaps in our zeal to be doctrinally correct we have ignored or even put down feelings and emotions? If visitors who are seeking a life-affecting experience with God come to our churches and observe that the people sitting in the pews express no different attitudes and emotions than the people in the world and that their worship of God is devoid of any feelings or emotions, can we blame them for going elsewhere?
There is nothing wrong with Christians desiring feelings, emotions, and experience. In fact, the lack of any experience is in itself an experience. The lack of feeling is a feeling. The lack of emotion is an emotion. Any cursory reading of the New Testament demonstrates that love, joy, peace, hope, contentment are to be the Christian’s experience, feeling, and emotion.
Yet, that same reading of the New Testament will also demonstrate that feelings and emotions are an effect and not a cause. All of the imperatives or commands of Scripture are based upon the indicatives, or the doctrinal statements of what God has done for us. In other words, the subjective feelings and emotions commanded in the Word of God must be the result of embracing in faith …Christ Jesus. Feelings and emotions that arise because of a group dynamic involving lively music and expressive demonstrations are no different than the feelings and emotions that arise at a rock concert. They are not the fruit of the Spirit.