God's great guitar riffs
By John Van Sloten
I knew there had to be a God the day Metallica sent a Warner Music camera crew to our church.
John Van Sloten
Drummer Lars Ulrich was intrigued that a preacher, instead of condemning the band, would choose to highlight the good and godly elements of their heavy-metal lyrics.
After reading a news story on the upcoming church service — comparing Metallica's angry outbursts to those of Old Testament prophets —Lars exclaimed, "I think this is f***ing amazing!"
To be honest, even I was a bit surprised to find God at work in their rage-filled rants, although my Christian world view left the door wide open to this possibility.
Before I get into that, a bit of personal history.
A night of doubt
Fifteen years ago, my wife and I had a son born with Down syndrome. His birth was devastating to me. That first night, I ran scenario after scenario of how shitty life would be as a father of a "retarded" child.
Will I ever love him? Will I have to take him bowling with other disabled kids when he's eight — bumpers in the gutters because no one could throw a ball straight?
Will he have any friends at 18, or will he sit alone in some high school cafeteria? And when he's 40, and I'm dead, will he rot in some horrible institution?
It was a rough night.
'That must mean I love him'
Three months later, while doing some community service in Rochester, N.Y., I got some answers.
I met a 40-year-old man with DS. His life was filled with meaning and he was the centre of his church community.
Two days later, I met an eight-year-old DS boy whose beauty and physical strength were so readily apparent. He kept showing me his muscles! Then, I met an 18-year-old DS teen whose social calendar was too full to have any time for the likes of me.
And then the next day, while driving back home to Toronto, the most powerful answer came. I caught myself missing my little boy, and thought, "Well if I miss him, then that must mean I love him."
Through the tears of that moment, it then hit me. God knew. The night I was running all of those anxious scenarios, he knew the answers I found in Rochester laid ahead.
The curtain pulls back
And then the epiphany came. It was like a curtain was pulled back and, in that moment, I got to see a glimpse of the godness of God — absolutely huge, mysteriously holding all of reality, powerfully sovereign over all things, providentially moving and loving it all.
All I could say was, "Holy shit! If this is who you are, then I'd like to work for you — full time!"
A few months later, I quit my real estate developer career and entered the seminary. Over the years since, I've come to a much deeper knowledge of who this very involved God is, involved in both word and world.
A biblical world view holds that the Earth is God's and everything in it. God made all things, and holds all things, they belong to him, matter to him!
And Christianity very clearly teaches that God's spirit is actively involved in how reality plays out, inside and outside the church, through all human beings, faith filled or not, through all of his creation.
Beauty in unorthodox places
I believe this is true. I agree with 16th-century theologian John Calvin when he says: "All truth is inspired by the Holy Spirit." All truth is God's truth. All beauty is God's beauty.
And all great guitar riffs are God's great guitar riffs!
To me, this world view makes all of human experience come to life. God is here and moving in the strangest of places. If we only had eyes to see, ears to hear.
Over the past five years, I've seen (and preached) God revealed in all kinds of unorthodox places: in quantum physics, The Lord of the Rings, the movie Crash, the life of Freddie Mercury, the honey bee, the field of architecture, the human immune system, the sense of taste, the world of fashion, a Stanley Cup playoff run, a World Cup soccer game and The Simpsons. Through disabilities, Lance Armstrong, tattoos, Amy Winehouse, J.S. Bach, Ray Charles, the Police, Neil Young, the World of Warcraft, the morning dew, at Starbucks, the Alberta Children's Hospital, the oil industry, Seven Card Texas Hold'em and the vast mysteries of the universe ... to name a few.
Not just a Sunday morning thing
And I do this not in some kind of trite, manipulative, joking around attempt at relevance — not at all.
I really do believe that there is revelation to be found, that God is self-revealing all over the place.
And it's wonderfully inspiring. To see God at every turn is to change and re-orient all of life. God is not just a Sunday morning thing. How could God ever be?
Christian faith is not just about morals or ethics. It's first and foremost about knowing and enjoying God in all things.
It seems to me that the Divine Heart is going out of its way to make this possible. And I, for one, am dying to see what an "eyes wide open" human life can be.
John Van Sloten is the pastor of New Hope Christian Reformed Church in Calgary. Media outlets have carried news stories on New Hope's radical sermon topics; audio and video podcasts of these messages can be found at the church's website. In 2007, 40,000 people have downloaded New Hope's messages online.
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