Worship: Less Zoo, More Petting Zoo

The thing about the zoo is that when you go, the main attraction is behind walls or glass. The majestic tiger or the curious mongoose is something that you can observe at a distance. It is something that gives you the impression that you "know" the animals. A zoo is also a place that few people enter with a sense of "fear". Unless you are going to the zoo with Harry Potter, you will not find a rogue snake at a zoo roaming around. And since zoos are set up to be so distant, there is an elevated amount of energy put toward the zoo keepers. We are too distant to the animals so we talk with the zoo keepers who tell us what it is like to have direct encounters with the animals. We rely on a mediator to tell us about the animals. 

Things are different for a petting zoo. 

First of all, it is clear that you will have a close encounter with the main attraction of the petting zoo. There is no protective glass or barrier keeping the curious animals to come toward you. But perhaps more importantly, most people I have seen enter a petting zoo enter with at least a small amount of nervous energy because they are not sure exactly what can happen. Will a dove descend on them? Will a lamb push up against their leg? Will there be a snake that strikes a bit of fear in them? And since the animals are there in your lap, there is less interest in hearing about the experiences of the animal caretakers. It is clear that in a petting zoo that it is the animals that need the most attention. 

Worship needs to really be less like a zoo and perhaps more like a petting zoo. We ought to enter worship with a sense of energy, unsure of what will happen exactly, anticipating a close encounter with the mysteries of God (the main attraction). A place where we desire a direct encounter with God rather than primarily rely on hearing how a direct encounter with God might feel like.