Wineskins Archive

February 6, 2014

A Sense of Shared Majesty (Sep-Oct 2001)

Filed under: — @ 4:55 pm and
Randy Gill finds that shared experiences can lead the worshiping community to the throne of God.

by Randy Gill
September – October, 2001

In September 1994 a fire swept through the hills of Malibu, California and moved rapidly towards the campus of Pepperdine University. By dark it was threatening the condominium where my family and I lived, and we were forced to evacuate. Like most of our neighbors we spent the next several hours in the field house on campus waiting to see what would happen next. Throughout the night we stood watching the flames, praying that the fire would spare our homes. None of us, though, wanted to stand alone. Almost by instinct we gravitated to each other, standing close, sharing our fears and offering words of hope and encouragement. There was incredible comfort and strength in being together. The following morning, when it was clear that our homes had been spared, there was a camaraderie between us that had not existed before. We had been through something remarkable, something none of us would ever forget, and we all felt the bond of genuine community.

Some things are just too profound to experience alone. Maybe that’s why, throughout the Old Testament, when God is about to do something significant, he commands Israel’s leaders to hold an assembly – to gather the people together. “What’s about to happen,” he seems to be saying, “is so important it needs to be a community experience. This is something that needs to be shared.” So the people are together as Moses delivers the Ten Commandments, as David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, as God’s presence fills the Temple on its dedication day, as Hezekiah restores the Passover, and as Ezra reads the Law from daybreak until noon. In all of these moments God’s presence and power were evident to all. Picture the people catching each other’s gaze and whispering, “Wow! Can you believe this?” It was that sense of shared majesty that held Israel together. They had been through something remarkable as a people, and that common experience was their bond. When they lost that sense of “holy community” Israel collapsed.

After Pentecost the early church felt a similar connection. They had witnessed the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. They had seen the Holy Spirit come in power and had wtnessed the transformation of thousands of lives in a single day. Those shared experiences created a unique and vibrant community. They wanted to be together. They met for worship and fellowship every day. They enjoyed a spirit that was so contagious people around them wanted to be part of the excitement.

According to Paul, when the church in Corinth came together everyone had a hymn, a word of instruction or a revelation they wanted to share. Have you ever been with a group of children after a particularly memorable experience? Each child is anxious to provide his or her version of the event. Each story builds on the next as the volume and excitement grows. You can almost see the young Christians in Corinth, with eager faces and hands raised saying, “Please! Let me go next! I have something wonderful to share!” Paul is compelled to say, “Calm down! Take your turn!”

Do we still have a sense of shared majesty today? Do we know the joy of being part of a holy community? If so, it’s sometimes hard to see when we come together. For too many of us worship has become a solitary exercise. Rather than sharing our common experience of God’s power and glory we retreat into a well-polished shell and seek Him on our own. In the midst of dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people we experience no real community at all. The irony is that we can pray, read, sing, meditate and study anywhere and any time. The only thing our assemblies offer that we can’t experience alone is the opportunity to be together. That’s why the writer of Hebrews says, “Consider how we can spur each other on. Don’t stop meeting together. We need the encouragement!” God’s people need to stand together as a community and witness His activity among us. We need to be able to share our lives and hear each other’s stories. We need the chance to cry together or to laugh, to ffer words of comfort or encouragement.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the joy of catching another’s eyes in worship and whispering, “Wow! Can you believe this?”New Wineskins

Randy Gill is the worship minister for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee.

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