In the “modern” Western Church, we live in a mostly non-ecstatic world. And most of it is of our creation. A good word to describe it is “bland”. I want to discuss our desperate need to be ecstatic in our life with God.
Ecstatic: feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement; involving an experience of mystic self transcendence.
Can you remember the last time you experienced anything like what is defined above? If your answer is affirmative, most likely it was at a football game, a concert or a baby’s birth. Or falling in love. Here’s my question: was it at a church service? I would guess your answer is “No”. And if not, why not? Sadly, the vast majority of worship services held today steer as far away as possible from being ecstatic. Our well practiced, predictable, repetitive, well controlled meetings (our God is a God of order, brother!), placating our essentially ecstatic-free public gatherings are passed off as “meeting with God”.
The Scriptures paint a very different picture of what people do when they meet with God. Think of how the Israelites react when they hear God’s voice at Horeb. Or how they sing, dance and shout in the Temple. And, the ecstatic experience we witness in Acts when the Holy Spirit falls upon God’s people – the list of Biblical examples goes on and on.
Let’s talk about “feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement.” I have always wondered why it is that the same people who talk loudly and excitedly before and after a Sunday worship service calm down to an almost zombie like state once the actual service begins. Gone is the excited talk, hands and arms gesticulating in happy chattery, now replaced by angelic looks, followed by a subdued, expressionless visage as we “enter the throne room”. All brought abruptly to an end as suddenly we have to “now be seated for the announcements”.
And what of “involving an experience of mystic self transcendence”? Transcendence means “beyond the normal or physical level”. Typically, the word is employed when referencing to a spiritual experience in which the individual is profoundly affected, often beyond their ability to control. When was the last time you experienced transcendence in a worship service? Or in your private quiet time with God? Friends, we have a desperate need for the ecstatic in our relationship with an infinitely loving and all powerful Creator and Father, beyond our simple, sinful human comprehension but knowable through the touch of the Holy Spirit.
I can think of two powerful examples from the Scriptures of transcendence: one is with Moses, the other with our lord Jesus. We learn from them both that to experience the Father’s presence in such a way as to transcend our earthly existence takes dedication, persistence and focus. In Exodus we read that Moses pitched a tent of worship outside of the Israelite camp where he daily spent time in God’s presence.
Often, Jesus separated Himself from His disciples and His Kingdom work to spend time with His Father privately and unhurriedly. In Moses’ life, we see the culmination of his devotion when the pillar of cloud leading the Israelite nation through the wilderness comes and hovers over his own personal tent of meeting. It immediately makes one think of the time when Jesus takes three of Is disciples up a mountain to pray and they experience the transfiguration of Jesus. I would say that both Moses and Jesus had ecstatic experiences with God. I would also say that if they needed and enjoyed it, so should we.
I understand very well that we live in a world full of the ecstatic that is both false and shallow, and often sinful. But that should never stop us from desiring and pursuing “feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement; involving an experience of mystic self transcendence” as we seek to be in His presence and know His power.