Vol 3:11 Missional Journey: Lent – The Disorientation of Worshiping God

As a Mennonite community, the community I pastor, we are on a journey throughout Lent in which we seek to focus on Psalms of Disorientation and Reorientation. Walter Brueggemann is the one who gives voice to this understanding of the Psalms (cf. Praying the Psalms, Spirituality of the Psalms) and expresses that the Psalms of Lament are meant to disorient us.

This past week our community focused on Psalm 19 addressing how our relationship with God affects how we hear God. This has caused me to reflect further on how disorienting worshiping God can be in our lives.

Psalm 19, expresses three movements of our relationship with God. Verses 1-6 explore the handiwork of God’s creation in which God is addressed as El – more or less a generic name for God. Verses 7-10 address God more personally, as one who encounters us, using God’s name YHWH – meaning “I AM,” “I will be what I will be,” or “I am with you” – bearing strong similarity to the Hebrew verb for “Being.” And verses 11ff, express God in a term of endearment – YHWH, my Rock and my Redeemer in which not only is God personal, but we are personal to God.

The more personal God becomes to us – from one who creates, to one who encounters us, to one with whom we are in an endearing relationship – the more our ears and lives are open to hearing God – even when God speaks that are difficult for us to hear.

That got me to thinking how disorienting worshiping God can be. We already recognize that living our lives cognizant of God involves metanoia (repentance) as Jesus expresses regarding the present and coming reign of God at the outset of his ministry – “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” In living our lives in relation to God, we undergo a paradigm shift, a change of direction in our lives (what is what repentance means), where we no longer live for ourselves, but our lives are being shaped and directed for God’s purposes and participating with God in bringing about God’s purposes in all creation. When we are turned around to God in such a way, we cannot help but be worshipers of God, of YHWH, of YHWH who is our Rock and Redeemer.

As we worship God, our lives are never the same again – we are radically disoriented from the ways of being with which we have become comfortable in order to be reoriented to a new way of being human through Jesus Christ. And lest we become comfortable in taking charge of our new orientation – the Spirit of God always is about re-orienting us as we become more and more like Jesus Christ.

I remember when I first became a follower of Jesus in the days of the Jesus People movement of the 70s in Canada and I became associated with a charismatic community of new believers in Christ. I remember how disorienting worship was – how I was afraid to let myself express how much I deeply loved God. But as I came to realize how deeply I mattered to God, I was set free to express how deeply God mattered to me, to express my love for God in worship – and I was set free to worship God in ways that were very disorienting to the way I had worshiped growing up in a church. This reorientation to God was deeply disorienting, but it was a disorientation that was brought about by being re-oriented – which filled me with a deep sense of God’s presence, God’s grace, God’s mercy and love.

I have discovered that worship is able to be continually disorienting and reorienting. And this continual process of being re-oriented is foundationally disorienting.

Such disorientation can create havoc in our lives, unless we develop the practice of learning to “walk in the Spirit.” When we try to shape God’s reorienting work in our lives by somehow taking charge again of our own spiritual journey, we will always struggle with our being disoriented. However, in learning to “walk in the Spirit” we learn how to give space to the Spirit to be set free in us to do God’s creative work in us, enabling us to focus more on the reorienting activity of God going on in our lives – which, in my experience, is a very peace-creating, rather than anxiety-inducing place to be.

In being worshipers of God, we will always be disoriented when we try to make this journeying with God our own, yet, when we are open to the Spirit, who comes alongside us to walk with us, to direct our journey, we find ourselves walking with the Spirit, walking with the community of Christ Jesus, participating with what God is doing in the world, and we become more adept to living in the flow and the serendipities of the Spirit because the Spirit is taking hold of our lives to live in the ever re-orienting presence of God.

So, next time as we are in worship, let go of grasping our old orientations – be open to being disoriented by the re-orienting work of the Spirit, as we are set free to express our love for God who loves us.

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl