Every pastor has sat with parents who now live with the emptiness and numbness of a life that was there and gone in the womb, with the moms and dads who traded their hopes for the pain of a child still born, with the family who heard cancer from the mouth of a doctor while looking at their toddler, with the family who was informed by the trooper their teen did not survive the accident, with the soldiers who stood at the door with words no parent wants to hear, and with the news that your son or daughter took their own life. And there are a thousand other terrible surprises parents find and pastors try to help them pick up the pieces.
We want to tame the wildness of life with pills that fix every disease, cures for every disability, surgeries for every tumor, answers for every despair, and a way out for every dead end. It does not work that way. Life is not safe, not secure, and not insulated from the hard, the painful, and gut wrenching. It is still wild and nothing we can say or do can tame it. What we cannot, God can. Ours is not some tame God who reasons with sin or makes peace with death. He does the unthinkable. He comes as wild as life to tame life for us by giving up His life to redeem ours. He is not passive but actively puts Himself in our place to save us. He enters death not as the unwitting but as the determined and when the stone is rolled away He shows His wildness. He is not safe but He is merciful. That is the lesson of Narnia. He is not tame but His wildness accomplishes salvation for a people who can do nothing to save themselves.
We struggle to tame God, to make Him predictable and therefore controllable. Instead, He uses His wildness to do what we cannot and then invites us to see what He has accomplished for us and trust Him in life and in death. We continually use our technology and education to try and render life safe and easy and to remake God into a toothless lion who fills the image but can do no real harm to anyone. But God is dangerous -- as the devil well knows. But His wildness is used for merciful purpose and He saves us in the violence of cross and the coldness of the grave. Once we begin to get that, we can settle for no casual encounters with an easy God anymore. It is nothing less than reverence before the God who is beyond our imagination and yet whose mystery is for merciful purpose, redeeming those who cannot save themselves and who would not if they could. Sunday morning is not some family room or den where we can let it all hang out, where everything is good, and life is answered with safety and security. It is holy ground on which we stand only in Christ to receive the gifts of Christ that actually deliver what they symbolize and do what they promise.
That is what is behind liturgical worship -- God is not safe or tame but He is merciful when we meet Him where He has promised to be found! There in the means of grace, we meet the wildness of His mercy not to condemn or punish but to seek and save. In that moment, it is not about making sense but about the delight of a merciful God who has become our Savior -- without any worth or merit on our part. Within the awe over such mercy, faith lives, survives, and flourishes.