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Crash Helmet Spirituality

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2019 6 Mar

  An image of a motocross rider doing a wheelie with a sunset over a mountain range in the background.

Come on, admit it! You’re tired of a god who is just a new improved version of most humans you know. That god might be admirable, but he wouldn’t be worth worshiping, wouldn’t be worth be worth dying for. Because that god would just be a super version of you.

We want to worship a God who is more than just an outstanding person or a great guy. But we live in what is arguably the most egalitarian culture in history. We don’t like it when anyone stands out as morally superior.  Most of the time we enjoy seeing them cut down to size.

Unfortunately that pattern can persist in our spiritual lives. We like our worship services to be casual so that we can come “just as we are,” chewing gum, drinking coffee in the sanctuary and chatting amiably even during the service. God is our friend after all. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a fan of casual. And I believe Jesus is the best friend I will ever have. It’s just that an overly casual attitude doesn’t help us experience the proper kind of awe in the presence of a God of unimaginable holiness.

Annie Dillard says that most people haven’t a clue about the kind of power they’re invoking when they pray. Why, she asks, are people wearing fancy hats to church when “we should all be wearing crash helmets?” Do we really believe that we are in the presence of God Almighty in whom there is no flaw or imperfection?

The Jewish people have developed various ways of reminding themselves of God’s holiness. In Rabbinic Judaism, Scripture is considered holy and reading it a sacred act.  Writing the scrolls is also considered holy, which is why those who do so must wash their hands afterwards. This is one small example of how they have learned to celebrate the sacredness of worship through concrete acts and objects.

What if we were to imitate their practice by building more tangible signs of God’s holiness into our own times of prayer and worship, creating beautiful sanctuaries, lighting a few candles, holding the Bible reverently, reading it carefully, and choosing songs that emphasize God’s holiness and majesty? Let’s ask God to remind us of his holiness, so that we might come into his presence in a way that brings him honor and praise.