There’s this song on Christian radio:
Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord
The song seems to be mainly about the worship experience. It’s a very evocative song. One can see upturned faces, eyes closed, hands and voices raised in ecstatic worship as the faithful feel the presence of the Spirit wash over them. Honestly, both musically and lyrically it seems intent on addressing the emotions. It’s seeking a feeling, a visceral awareness of the Presence of God. And I suppose this is good, so far as it goes.
As a member of a faith tradition that has always been wary of an emphasis on the emotions, I’ve been taught to view knowledge and right teaching as more important than feelings. Indeed in our religious culture an appeal to an emotional religious experience, one that over rules and supersedes reason and understanding has typically been viewed as downright dangerous. This article recently shared with me by a friend articulates well the suspicion I was raised with about the dangers of an over-reliance on emotion in worship. Though not written by an Adventist, it could have been.
This song both musically--with it’s stirring electric guitar riff that would seem to announce the entrance of the Spirit (“Or is it lower-case, spirit, of questionable origin?” the elders of my youth would warn) and lyrically--with it’s pleading to be overwhelmed and overcome, would be a red flag in of itself.
But lately I’ve been listening to this song with different ears, and in the process I’m thinking about a third way in which the Holy Spirit is made manifest. Instead of associating the lyrics with a church service, most likely at say Azure Hills, in California (fellow Adventists will get the joke ;), I associate them with my classroom. Instead of relating the words and music to typical worship activities such as singing and prayer, I associate them with the mundane tasks of my workday--teaching, talking to a struggling student, attending staff meetings, all the things I do through the school day--even planning instruction and grading. And suddenly the song has a much richer and deeper meaning to me.
Some would say that the Holy Spirit’s presence is all about how you feel in that moment of worship. Others would say that one can only trust the Holy Spirit’s presence when it is grounded in the study, knowledge, and right understanding of the Bible. But if the Holy Spirit’s presence is limited to either of these arenas, I question how valid the Presence really is. If the Spirit is truly Present in our lives, then it must be revealed in our actions, in our daily lives, in the work we do, and most importantly, in how we treat other people.
Take a listen to the song, and picture your workday life, wherever that it is. Associate it’s desire for the Holy Spirit’s presence with that arena and see how it transforms your view of what you do and what it means to have His precious Presence with us.
Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness