Reclaiming Reverence

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Reclaiming Reverence

Gregory Spencer, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication Studies, Westmont College
Author, Awakening the Quieter Virtues

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom . . .  (Proverbs 9:10).

At a recent worship service the pastor told the congregation, “you’re about to enter into the presence of deity.” They audibly gasped. The glorious expressions on worshipers’ faces revealed their deep longing for the supernatural. For something sacred and transcendent.

Then it happened. The holy one descended. Spontaneous screams of joy erupted. The object of adoration, the Handsomest Man Alive, walked in, greeted the talk-show host, and sat just to her right. Women in the audience swooned as the actor signed a movie prop and handed it to a trembling soul before him. Such reverence! Such a shame.

When we aren’t worshiping celebrities, we’re applauding their shockingly irreverent behavior. Simultaneously, we water down words like “awesome,” using it to describe everything from God to toilet paper. Overall, we seem less awed today—or, at least not by much of anything beyond the latest technological innovation. And, even then, only for about 18 months until the next gadget or upgrade is released.

Has our recognition of “the sacred” actually faded, or are we just searching for transcendence in different, more secular places?

The “Fear of the Lord” includes reverent awe, or a sense of inspired wonder. Reverence combines both thought and action. It is, in faith, kneeling before the sacred and standing up to the profane.

The reverent train themselves to see God’s Spirit and his handiwork. They know the sacred when they see it; it is that in which God is found. In short, they recognize that “there is something sacred in every moment.”

Sometimes the sacred is found through searching; other times it crashes upon us unannounced. Either way, reverence increases as we cultivate eyes and ears for the God who is among us.

At the same time, the reverent heart is broken by things that break God’s heart. A reverent nose for the profane sniffs out what smells to high heaven and resists it. Of course, not everything that stinks is offensive to God. But when the sacred is violated in ways that grieve God, the reverent take a stand. They shed the light and speak the truth.

Lights, camera, action. Enter the deity. Cue audible gasps. What stands before you? The sacred or profane?

Reflection: What is the condition of my kneeling before the sacred? What in the world do I consider profane?

Today’s Challenge: read a passage of Scripture aloud several times in different ways (sadly, gleefully, sternly, passionately). Then read it as if your Bible will be taken away forever. Record your thoughts.

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