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Observations About Worship

June 28, 2004

My first big project at Mosaic was to put together the LA Tour, a trip to different spiritual centers around the city, in order to gain a better understanding of the spiritual and cultural diversity of Los Angeles. Saturday (6.19) was the day it all came together.

We met at Macarthur Park at 10:00 amÖwell, sort of. Unbeknownst to me, Macarthur Park is apparently a place where you can buy crack any time of day (or whatever your choice of drug). It seemed friendly enough, but I guess looks can be deceiving. Shoot, itís LA. Nothing is what it seems. So we began the day with people wondering why we were meeting there and also not being able to find it. Eventually we all came together at about 10:30 am. By 10:45 we were on our way to the Zen Buddhist Center where I had scheduled us to have a tour of their facility. Jaime (Spanish pronunciation, ďhi-mayĒ) is one of the youth pastorís at Mosaic and he was my help for the day. Since he has lived in LA for 10 years, he was a great source of information. I had printed off driving directions for all of the drivers, but we didnít leave from the spot from where I had planned all the directions (Macarthur Park) because we ended up having to meet people elsewhere who couldnít find the park. So from the get go, everything was off a bit, which I am learning is typical Mosaic fashion. It all comes together in the end. We needed to get going and I didnít know how to get to the Zen Center from where we were, so I said to Jaime, ďdo you know how to get to the Zen Buddhists Center?Ē Heís said yes and for me and everyone else to follow him. So I did. Ten minutes later we were on the 60 heading east (aka. Away from downtown; every stop I had planned was downtown so we wouldnít have much driving to do). Come to find out, Jaime was taking us to the largest Buddhist temple in North America, located in Hacienda Heights, California (a suburb of LA). However, thatís not where I set up the tour. We were all ready well on our way and so we continued on. I called the other temple and apologized profusely. Hopefully that relationship isnít too damaged.

Stepping into this house of worship was quite an experience. Iíve never actually seen people in the act of worship other than Christians. To see many devout followers come and bow before the Buddha and bring their offerings was quite disturbing. My discernment was on high alert. Although it was disturbing, one thing has rested with me since then, and that is the reverence with which Buddhists come to worship. All is quiet in the temple. Reflective. Contemplative. Reverent. As I think about this I wonder why such reverence isnít shown in most of our Christian houses of worship. So, as happens often, I began to think about that. First of all, as the body of Christ, ďWE are Godís field, Godís temple. It is in the hearts of men and women in which God resides, not in the building. Our problem with reverence has less to do with the lack of a quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the structure in which the Church gathers and more to do with the reverence of the heart as it bows before its Creator. Our lives are to be reverentÖhow hard is that! Nonetheless, this is what we are to strive for. As for quiet contemplation, it is certainly of great value, as is an atmosphere of reverence. But I just wanted to note something about our God. He likes to be celebrated, and he likes it loud. I just finished reading 2 Chronicles 5-6. In these chapters the author tells of the finishing touches that are being put on Solomonís temple and the ceremony of its dedication. What commotion! What hoopla! Read it, and see if you donít get excited! He is not a God of chaos, but he is a God of celebration.

Praise God that he loves variety in worship. That we donít always have to tiptoe in silence, take our shoes off (although a good practice sometimes) or bow many times over. Praise God that he loves dancing, singing, shouting and sweet sweet melodies! We may feel free to approach him in whatever way our hearts so desire, whether in silence or in shouts.

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