As my family worshiped with music this morning I heard something new to me. As the music peaked and dipped, each progression building and building to an apex holding there briefly, and plummeting away only to repeat I got a glimpse of the analogy of life that is man’s pleasure with music.
My young daughter was pouring her heart out, seemingly capable of remaining ecstatic indefinitely despite the songs going up and down, up and down. My favorite part of any song, for years, has been the building up. Each similar progression more passionate than before until plateauing with excitement.
Human enjoyment of music seems to revolve around some universal law within all of us. Sure different cultures have different preferences, but today, just now, it seems to me that music comes from something spiritual. A knowledge deep within us, that echos the ebbs and flows of life. That reminds us that our flesh is not made for, nor can it withstand, the joy that never ends.
This will not turn into another “without evil there’d be no good” deception. However, I suspect that what I noticed this morning, is that life as we know it always has been and always will be characterized by “wind and waves”.
Today marks the 3rd or 4th week that I’ve been “making my body a slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27) from Friday evening to Saturday evening. This has been every bit as difficult as breaking any addiction or pushing through any challenge that I’ve experienced. I’m literally addicted to working, to being entertained, and even to jumping back and forth between the two while seldom being content with which to do when. The Sabbath day command, demonstrated by God at the creation of the world, and commanded via Moses in the 10 Commandments, is an important counterweight to the inundation of the modern world.
Here is not where I declare that the name of the day is critical to this observance. What I will say, is that “going to church” has never really seemed like an equivalent to the 4th command in my opinion. In fact, going to church really only resulted in swinging back and forth like a pendulum between wanting work and wanting entertainment. Perhaps that’s why there’s music, then preaching, then music, and maybe more preaching, peppered with praying, and then music, then preaching…
God got my attention about this weeks ago when I realized that so little of what I worry about is important. This problem was so bad that the things that were important weren’t getting much attention at all. The cycle is ridiculous. In the midst of my frustration with my own animal instincts I felt a strong conviction that I can and should work hard, but I must be able to stop when the time is right. I must acknowledge my Father, and that The Sabbath was made for me, not me for it (Mark 2:27) because I must rest between peaks. I must have enough faith to be still on a regular basis. I must pause and reflect and every week that I fail to do that makes the next less likely.
The same way that music takes us up to a moment that we cannot remain in, so can 6 days become a building and exciting overture to an incredible climax that cannot last more than a day, but should be cherished while it lasts, only to repeat the week again like the verses of a song. When Friday preparation becomes a bridge leading into yet another beautiful chorus, life is a song.
This idea (and some thoughts from a dear friend a year ago) really convinced me that my flesh cannot exist on a spiritual apex for long any more than the exuberance of a worship chorus can last all week. This reality about human existence has been described in so many ways, perhaps best in the mythological phoenix, that lasts for mere moments in a blaze of glory.
Similar to the pendulum back-and-forth between joy and the mundane, I’ve often considered even the joy I experience to be meaningless for the simple fact that it is so temporary. While it’s true that we all seek eternal joy, it’s important that we realize that our flesh is incapable of it. It’s drastically important.
Here’s where things are going to get a bit nerdy. You see early in the 2nd century a movement arose among Christians called “Montanism” named after its founder Montanus. Montanus had started out as a priest of an ancient cult that worshiped a “goddess” they called Cybele. Worship of Cybele included: “…orgiastic ceremonies in which her frenzied male worshipers were led to castrate themselves, following which they became ‘Galli’ or eunuch-priests of the goddess. Cybele eventually came to be viewed as the Mother of all gods and the mistress of all life.”
After Jesus’ resurrection, just about the time Montanus “converted” to Christianity, another tradition had become prominent among the orgiastic worshipers of Cybele. An initiation that included the cutting down of a pine tree, after which the initiates buried it and worked themselves into a frenzy for a night after which they raised it up again.
You may be wondering where this nerdy dive into a peculiar history of early Christendom relates to The Sabbath, and I’ll get to that in a shake, but maybe you’re making the connection already? Montanus’ infiltration into Christianity brought with it a distinct discontentment with the “boring” worship of the early Church. In summary, he tiptoed around orthodox teaching as he gathered a flock. Emphasizing acceptable, but eye-raising practices such as “new prophecies”, “holy rolling”, and speaking in tongues. His very first followers were “prophetesses” (Prisca and Maximilla) who gained a lot of attention with their “ecstatic prophecy” whereby the “orgiastic frenzy” characteristics of Cybele worship infiltrated Christian circles leading to several hundred years of binge & bust “charismaticsm” among otherwise meek and humble followers of Christ. Galatia is specifically noted as one of the places that this created a large divide.
As Montanus gained clout he began paying people (a practice forbidden up until this time among Christian churches) to teach his ideas, which had evolved via false prophecy to include a firm belief that Christ would return on a mountain in Phrygia and that women could leave their husbands so long as they join Montanism. Some more ardent opponents of Pentecostalism have gone so far as to refer to it as “neo-Montanism”.
Whether or not the Assemblies of God necessarily worship Cybele, or were founded by Montanus, would be a matter of blatant dogma that I will not descend to. Even in the 2nd century the early practices of the Montanists were accepted by the Christian orthodoxy. When we recognize that church attendance does not equate to spiritual identity then it’s fairly certain that many true believers would be part of either movement. However, it’s also important to note the specific weaknesses these movements exploit. A weakness common to all. Discontentment.
Day-after-day, week-after-week, Christians behave much like non-Christians in our pursuit of success and prosperity. So much so, that there’s really not much difference anymore. Non-believers go to the country club, believers go to church. The kind of passion that stirs in seeds that fall on shallow soil (Matthew 13:5) can and often does lead to an expectation that each spiritual high experienced needs to be followed by more and more, bigger and bigger, with no end. There is the distinct temptation to go bigger and further with each time around. As Jesus points out, they sprout up “quickly”.
The Sabbath, is a purposeful pause. If we focus all of our efforts on sprouting leaves and branches, and none of our efforts on deep roots, we all risk the manic exasperation of a complete basket case. Conditioning our minds to expect more and bigger, louder, and flashier. Something in modern times exacerbated by the effect of television on our brain development.
Our brains have become addicted to stimulation at an unprecedented rate. Even the worshipers of Cybele weren’t as addicted to extremes as modern humans. These extremes may seem like drive and hunger and passion, but they are more chains for those who are decieved into thinking they are nothing if they aren’t louder and more flamboyant than everyone else.
The charismatic movement boasts the largest meeting attendance of almost any other club. Some rival professional sports in their ability to fill a stadium on a Sunday, under the guise of Sabbath observance. Yet, we still know, that Jesus said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.“
– Matthew 7:13-14
So are we to believe that the most popular movement is the most correct one? I for one believe that’s a risky proposition that defies Christ Himself. Instead, as for me and my house, we’ll look to original prophecies rather than hunger for new ones. We’ll be content with being small, and let Christ be great. Call it old fashioned, but Saturday will be the day of rest for us, to break up the unending bombardment of “orgiastic frenzy” that characterizes modern society. After all of that, if our Heavenly Father wants something supernatural from us, then we trust His anointing will come in His timing, and not by our orchestration.
“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”