by Terry Camsey, Major –
I’m in the middle of reading Fresh Power by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. A phrase he uses has been running around my mind for several days. It says:
“God…wants the church to be a place of
awe and wonder –
two qualities we have largely lost in our meetings.”
Awe. It’s a word that has, perhaps, lost much of its original meaning. Many things these days are labeled “awesome” implying wonder of whatever is being described so.
“He’s an awesome euphonium player”…“She’s an awesome cook”…“It’s an awesome CD”… “My vacation was awesome”…
Webster’s II Dictionary interprets awe as “A feeling of reverence and dread, mingled with wonder.” And “feeling” suggests an emotional and intuitive awareness…even a physical sensation.
William Barclay suggests that, in the book of Acts, awe was, “…the feeling in men’s minds when they saw the signs and wonders and felt the power in the early church…that awe which comes upon the creature in the presence of the Creator.”
Have you ever felt that awe and wonder in an Army meeting…a sense of the presence of God that is so strong that your body feels a physical response?
It happened to me for the first time many years ago, in meetings at youth camps. Prior to that, I had been a traditionalist in the worst sense of the word. If the songs used were not published or approved by The Salvation Army, we should not be singing them. And I would not!
So, at youth camp, I’d sit in the very back row…as far away from the loud music and singing as I could. When the youngsters jumped up and down and stomped, I would not. My upbringing and sense of dignity would not allow me to.
But, a strange thing happened. As the praise and worship music started to slow, get softer and more thoughtful, I found myself deeply moved. So much so that I found tears running down my cheeks and an inability even to sing…I was “gob-smacked” as the Brits would say…struck dumb by an awareness of the Divine Presence.
It brought to mind the situation many years ago when Angela, the young daughter we lost to leukemia, used to sit on her grandma’s knee in holiness meetings while Beryl and I were participating in band and songsters. She was three and, whenever the songsters sang a certain song, tears would run down her cheeks also. The song?
“In the secret of Thy presence, where the pure in heart may dwell,
Are the springs of sacred service and a power that none can tell.
There my love must bring its offering, there my heart must yield its praise,
And the Lord will come, revealing all the secrets of His ways.”
It suddenly struck me that my daughter had discovered a sense of the presence of God before I had. And she couldn’t, at that tender age, have read or even understood the words.
I have, at times, had that same unexpected sense of God’s presence in other venues and church services since then. The result has always been the same…such a deep sense of awe that I am temporarily struck dumb, and the tears roll down my cheeks.
And this sense of awe and wonder are what Jim Cymbala suggests God wants to see in meetings in our church (which we know as The Salvation Army).
Does he? Should he? Or, does even the very suggestion cause us to be…