Here in the UK, this last four days have seen a lot of excitement with Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. After the inclement weather during the water pageant on Sunday (which may have dampened the spectators but not their spirits!) and Monday evening's pop-concert outside Buckingham Palace, today came a solemn occasion, indeed, in a service at St Paul's cathedral.
Now, when I say 'solemn' I do not mean sad and mournful - there was 'pomp and circumstance' and with Her Majesty being the head of the Anglican Church there was due deference to her status. I'm not normally one for 'high church' ritual ('bells, smells and very up-candle!' as someone once said) and usually I find it hard to worship when surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of large places of worship that have become monuments of history.
However, this morning's service, watched via the BBC, had part of my soul hankering for something which I feel has been sadly lacking in my current church-experience : MAJESTY
No, not the Queen herself, but the majesty and mystery of God.
It seems the polarity of Christianity stretches from the highly ritualised, steeped in tradition, 'hands-off' approach; down to the other end of the scale where it's very laid-back and 'buddy Jesus' with no barriers.
I think each has it's place, as a facet of responsive worship; but equally, when taken to extremes, each also slightly misses the mark.
In my own circumstance, attending a Free Church (that is, not the established church) the familiar traditions of my former Anglicanism (albeit, a very lower-stated version!) are sadly missing and sometimes I think we are so laid-back and 'free' in our worship that it is possible to lose the MAJESTY and awe of worshipping God in all His magnificence.
Watching today's service, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, articulated a wonderful sermon based on Romans Ch.12 (this, taken from a modern translation, 'The Message') - talking of service and using the skills and talents we have each been blessed with and spoke of putting the needs of others first, regardless of our own personal status. This is something our Queen has done for 60 years already. Some detractors point to her privileged lifestyle but they ignore the duty and service she undertakes on behalf of the nation when, quite frankly, she'd probably rather not attend yet another function or listen to another boring speech. What she does is give of herself, displacing her own wishes at times and making others the focus of her attention. And that is precisely what our duty and homage to God should be!
Graham Kendrick wrote the worship song 'Meekness and Majesty' and the words speak of the manhood and Deity contained within Christ. The words continue.... "In perfect harmony, the Man who is God".
I think the harmony of our worship and service of God is somehow off-kilter when we either focus so much on MAJESTY that we get lost in the ritual; or, in the looseness of our approach to Him, that we are apt to forget we walk on Holy ground!
I love the way C.S.Lewis describes Aslan (representing Christ in his allegorical work, 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe') seen in this clip from the movie of the book:
We need to remember the MAJESTY in the midst of our worship - God's not tame!