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Monday, October 03, 2011


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- "But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away."-Ezra 3: 12-13

For a long time there was a debate within Christianity about emotion.  Emotion, it was believed, was the bane of good faith because emotion, being irrational, does not lead to good theology.  Emotions, after all, can be manipulated and are subject to the most basic of swings.  Good music makes us feel happy and excited while a long Bible reading makes us bored and disinterested.  Emotion, it was decided, had no place in good religion.  So for a very long time people were expected to sit through worship with a stiff upper lip and a stoic expression on their faces.  No laughter, no tears, no excitement, no sorrow, just good solid reason as their guide.  My how things have changed.

Today, the fastest growing form of Christianity is Pentecostalism, which is known for its dramatic emotional swings.  While many find fault with it, both theologically and liturgically, there is no doubt that it has effected modern Christianity to the point where now many worship services, on occasion even our own, allow worshipers to exhibit authentic emotions.  Oh the horror!  Of course, one thing which has always encouraged the display of emotions where God is concerned is a little thing I like to call the Bible.  The Bible is full of emotional outbursts, and there is a great one here in Ezra.  As the cornerstone is laid on the second Temple in Jerusalem, people freak out.  The old people cry and the young people act like they are at a Lady Gaga concert.  It's emotional pandemonium!  And it is great.  As Presbyterians, we still err on the side of the stoic; better to look like none of this God talk really effects us we think.  But we are wrong.  Our faith should effect us. Our dire situation as humans; the powerful love of God in Christ Jesus; the gift of the Church, these are important things, emotional things.  Don't be afraid to weep or to shout or to laugh or to smile.  God is present here, we should feel it, not just think it. 

Prayer:  Holy God, please help me to feel your presence, and to be bold in showing my emotions.  I love you, and I am thankful for all you have done for me.  I pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

[Phil Blackburn, First Presbyterian Church]

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