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Sunday, December 19, 2004

How are you feeling?

Eric and Andy have recently been debating the ethos (the spirit and character of a community) of the church, its importance and its place. Particularly with this post, I think Andy's really nailed it. He writes:

Instead of manufacturing joy and and telling people, in Eric's words, that they'd better frolic or what they're doing is unChristian, why don't we let those imperatives of God - his commands to "fear not", to "rejoice", etc - rest on the indicatives of God. He has pronounced - he has said with his mouth that we are his and he is ours, idolatrous as our hearts may perpetually be. In this lies our ethos, and it's not something that a worship team can bring to the table.

To flesh it out even further: Separating the ethos of the church from her logos or her pathos can be done no more easily than separating Christ from the man He is, the Word he declared, and the life He lived.

Christian worship is always an attempt to come to God, and His son declares that no one comes to the Father except through Him: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Christ Himself is our pathos (way), logos (truth), and ethos (life). Our great High Priest, He sets the tone of our worship with his Word, body and blood.

If you really think about it, we should expect as much. After all, we bow at the feet of a personal God, a God who was made man. As a Jew, he worshipped with other Jews, with all the highs and lows that come with humanity. My guess would be that He knows what it's like to feel a tingle at the Lord's declaration -- I will be your God, and you will be my people -- perhaps even more excruciatingly than we can grasp, because He is both the message and the means of this ultimate Word of God.

So what of our feelings? Cast them aside as quickly as they come? Hardly.

As Andy points out, Christ commands us to fear not, take heart, and rejoice; commands that work on many levels, not the least of which is the emotional. If we exorcise our emotions, we don't even know what fear means, let alone rejoicing. The Holy Spirit is always working to reveal Christ to us, interceding with groans that words cannot express, and aching conviction, sorrowful repentance, and explosive joy are the tools of His trade.

Speaking personally, I know that I also felt the same discomfort that Eric points to during my time at the Chapel. I also felt discomfort as I came into the Lutheran church. In both cases the Holy Spirit was dragging me to the cross. At the Chapel, I ached to hear more grace and forgiveness. Once I started hearing it, I was staggered, and my pride searched desperately for a place to assert my works as righteousness.

The Word rightly preached creates a culture, and that culture carries with it ethos like a tide. When it doesn't feel like what we wanted, we've got two things to examine: What was preached to us, or what we expected. All too often I find that Christ feels, lives, and sounds less and less like what I imagine, and more and more like what I need.