I’m currently reading a book by the brilliant Bishop John Pritchard. In the first chapter he describes worship as “The lightening conductor through which God’s life strikes the earth” ( Pritchard.2007). This sentence stopped my scanning eye in its tracks. What a vivid image I am left with after reading that sentence! In my mind I hear the crack of the lightening hitting the ground so close to where I am standing, the heat of its awesome power blasting over my face, the speed that it appears from seemingly nowhere, the realisation of what has just happened.
This visualisation is quite accurate to an experience of our almighty God, and worship creates the right atmosphere that is favourable for such a lightening strike in our church life. When there is a risk of lightening, the temperature changes which is felt by the winds that blow, the sky changes colour, the air is thick with anticipation. In the Gospel today Jesus speaks of us being able to interpret the weather to be able to see what the forecast is going to be, “You see a cloud rising in the west. Right away you say, ‘It’s going to rain.’ And it does. The south wind blows. So you say, ‘It’s going to be hot.’ And it is (Luke 12:54-55). But he calls the crowds hypocrites! As intuitive as they are in predicting the weather they cannot see the lightening that Jesus channels from his almighty Father. The lightening that strikes, which has the power to not only electrify our love and excitement for our God, but to bring a divide, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you. I have come to separate people” (Luke 12:51 ).
The lightening which strikes through us travels straight down our mouths into our chests and sets our hearts ablaze with adoration. A feeling which is eloquently captured by the words of St Teresa of Avila as she describes her encounter with an angel, “In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails.” This is such an intrusive yet accurate description of being overwhelmed and touched by the awesome power of God’s love. God’s calling pulls at our very heart strings, in the depths of our bodies that we didn’t know could feel that way, a pulling and tugging of that golden spear, which as described by St Teresa “left me utterly consumed by the great love of God”.
This all consuming feeling that the power of worship sets the stage for is an exciting and humbling prospect. Every time we begin an act of worship we are creating the right conditions for experiences such as this to happen. We are envoking the passage of “God’s life on Earth” and how amazing is that! How amazing that each Sunday at the Eucharist we receive that lightening strike in the sharpness of the wafers and warmth of the wine that erupts in a glow of heat as it enters our body. When we pray and sit in adoration for our God we are creating the atmosphere, that weather which Jesus knows we can predict, ready for that lightening strike of God’s revelation of himself to us.
When touched by his glory and grace we follow Christ, we follow his call, his call for social justice, for neighbourly love, to stand up and be that lone voice that questions hatred, or ill treatment. Jesus knows that being touched by his Father’s awesome power transforms us, we are re-born, re-clothed in Christ. This is the division that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel, for once we are struck by that immense life changing bolt of lightening we are different, we are changed, and we belong to God for all eternity.