The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 01/04

Posted on | January 4, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 01/04

Scripture reading: Hebrews 8:1–13

Shadowland

These [religious activities] are a shadow of the things to come; the reality,

however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)

When our family visited Niagara Falls some years ago, I was horrified to discover that one of our daughters seemed to prefer the gift shop. Within only a few yards of one of the greatest wonders of the natural world, she wanted to look at trinkets and photographs of the falls rather than to experience the reality!

Paul was confronted with a similar conundrum among the believers in Colossae. Many seemed content to dabble in the symbols of faith and the rituals of worship rather than to experience the reality of Christ himself. In what amounted to virtual religion, their faith consisted of ceremonies, doctrines, morality and feelings. While Paul seemed hesitant to call these activities wrong, he wanted the worshippers to understand that such behaviors were simply insufficient to nourish the soul. Even when the outward form was correct, if the substance was missing, the activity was empty and void. It was a shadow of the real thing, not the real thing itself. And the difference between the two is similar to the difference between a lightning “bug” and a lightning “bolt.” At first glance these words are almost alike.

What about you? Are you content to stay in the gift shop when you’ve been invited to experience the living God? Are you satisfied with photographs and trinkets when you have the chance to know God personally? Are you living in the shadows of the Gospel when God wants you to step into the noonday sun? T.S. Eliot had a name for those who chose to live in the shadow between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act. He called them “hollow men.”

 

Surprisingly Plato of all people sheds light on this situation. In what is one of the most famous metaphors in Western thought, he describes human beings as those who live in a cave, shut out from the light of the sun. A fire behind them creates shadows on the wall. Animals and people are passing in front of the fire, causing their shadows to appear on the wall. Those seated in the cave mistake the dancing images for reality! They have no concept of real animals and real people, only shadows of animals and people. However, a few brave souls turn around to look behind them. They are shocked to discover the real world. They have been mistaking shadows for reality. Their discovery enables them to leave the shadowlands and step into the world of truth.

 

Being “out of touch with reality” is one definition of insanity. Is it possible that much of what we do in worship, according to this definition, could appropriately be labeled “insane”? Those who worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) are those courageous souls who turn from the shadows and look to the light. Virtual religion is anathema for these worshippers. They want to experience the reality of the living God. Nothing else will satisfy.

 

Don’t settle for shadows when God is offering you himself! Get out of the gift shop and taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)!

 

 

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom all secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name: through Christ our Lord. Amen. —the Book of Common Prayer

 

 

point to ponder When you worship are you focused on the symbols (shadows) or on the realities to which they point?

 

prayer focus A personal and experiential intimacy with Jesus.

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