24 January 2007


I’ve been listening to these philosophy of religion lectures. Recently, the professor came to Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher. I have to admit up front that I’ve never read Buber (that I remember, although, come to think about it, I think I did read one of his essays several years ago, but that hardly counts), so these thoughts come from hearsay.
Buber wrote a book entitled I and Thou (actually, the title is technically in German, so it might be something like Ich und Du). The important thing to notice, according to the professor, is the word “thou,” which, because of its use in Shakespeare and the King James, I have always took to be some high-falutent word. Not so, says the monkey. (I don’t know where the monkey came from, but that’s what he said. And there was no arguing with him.) Anyone who has studied a foreign language knows that our English is one of the few languages that does not have a separate formal and informal “you.” Apparently, many moons ago, we did, and thou was the informal usage. Point being, if I can get out my machete and hack through all this, the Christian life (for Buber, the Jewish life) is about encountering God everyday. Buber argues (again, from what I understand) that God is not this object to be studied with scientific methods and the like, but He is someone to be encountered everyday. Corollary: (and here’s what hit me like a piano falling in a cartoon) our particular experiences with God can be idolatry. Huh? How can an experience be idolatry if it’s with God? When we long for the experiences more than we long for God, then, well, you fit the jigsaw together. And I think this is a lot of our culture. We want these mountain top experiences to get us through the week, whether it’s some big concert or extreme sport or a worship experience. I confess, at times I have thought, oh, remember that time at the Passion conference and how we all felt so close to God and each other? And I want that back. Idolatry.
It makes me wonder if this is the root of some of the worship wars: I want this music. No, I want this, says one toddler to the other.
Don’t get me wrong. Praising God is a good thing, a very good thing. And to feel good while praising Him is a good thing. And praising Him with music or art or whatever we like is a good thing. It’s the longing for the feeling good over the praising God part that catches us. One of those fine line things, methinks.
So the question is thus: how do I encounter God every moment of every day when I clean the toilets or call a friend or write or practice piano or go to church or take cookies to my neighbor or, well, you get the idea.


Erin said...

Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song called, The Mountain, which talks about this very thing. We're always looking for a mountaintop high with God, when what God wants us to do (although He enjoys the mountaintops too) is to carry that fellowship with us "into the valley below."

I think that is a truer test of a worshiping heart. Can I choose joy and peace when I'm in the valley of the shadow of death? Or even just going through the blahs?

Job, Paul, Abraham, Joseph, Hannah, Ruth, King David, Elijah and Jesus would all tell me that if my encounters with God only occur under a certain set of specific conditions (specified by ME), then I'm not really worshipping, even when all the circumstances are "right."

"... I have always took to be some high-falutent word."
I thought that said high-flatulence, at first. Ha! Need some Tums?

One More Writer said...

Interesting insight, Heather. I think you are so right. Would we be more like the church Jesus wants for His bride if we each focused on Him rather than the details of the ceremony (so to speak)? My guess is yes.

Pamela said...

sometimes your mind amazes me.

L.L. Barkat said...

Mercy me, what would we do without Erin in the room? (You always make me laugh, even when Heather is trying to talk serious... I think this means we would not do well together in a classroom situation.)

Heather said...

In my opinion, there's no such thing as a completely serious conversation. What fun would those be? Props for Erin and her flatulence. I mean, er, well, you know.
Pam, sometimes my mind amazes me. Sigh. It amazes me that it hasn't gotten me into a straight jacket yet.
My word ver - sdjaayia. Reminds me of Saduccees. Because they're sad, you see.

Claudia said...

Makes me think of the Buddhist saying..."before enlightenment, the laundry. After enlightenment, the laundry."

Jennifer said...

Didn't Brother Lawrence explore this idea? I think that if we know we are doing what God wants us to do, or what needs to be done (i.e. cleaning the toilets for our family), then we are praising God with our works.

I don't know. You always make my brain hurt (in a good way).

LL--put me in the section of the classroom with you cut-ups.

Heather said...

Um, excuse me. [Tap, tap, tap.] L.L, can you please tell me the name of Buber's most-famous book? That's what I thought. Yes, will you and Jennifer please move to the front? And Erin, please put the whoopie-cushion away. Thank you.

Erin said...

sigh. And I was always the quiet and bookish kid in school. See what happens when they let us public school kids graduate?

We start enjoying low-brow jokes and chattering far too much.

(I really and truly DID misread what you wrote at first, Ms. Heather. Guess I didn't need to share it with the whole class though. I'll stay after for detention.)