Archive for September, 2012

Traditionally Speaking

September 12, 2012

This is an interesting article arguing for the importance of the historic Christian liturgy despite the accelerating trend over the last 40 years or so to discard it in favor of contemporary or emergent worship forms that are by definition unfixed and therefore marginalized in what they are intended to accomplish.

I agree with almost all of what the author has to say here.  However I disagree with how he characterizes the purpose of the Gospel and the purpose of worship, but that’s a result of our theological underpinnings being different (mine Lutheran, his evangelical).  Towards the end of the first page he quotes a design theory expert for a definition of design, and then attempts to link this to first the gospel, and then worship.
“…
then the gospel, I would argue, is a “design” project, and Christian worship, a design studio. “
I would argue that the Gospel is not a design – not a plan for how God is one day going to restore the world.  Rather, the Gospel is simply the announcement that God has done this.  The effects are not realized yet in full, but that does not mean that the reality is diminished.  What is and what we are capable of experiencing may be two very different things indeed.  This leaves the Church with the awkward task of announcing victory in a world still mired in defeat.  However that awkwardness is nothing new.
Because I disagree with this first definitional step he takes, it’s only logical that I also disagree with the second one:

The church’s mission, to borrow from Simon, is to send out innovators and designers whose actions are “aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” “
I don’t see this definition in the New Testament.  It isn’t that change isn’t expected – St. Paul has a great deal to say on the topic of change in the lives of converts to Christianity, those who have heard the Gospel’s declaration of accomplished change and are now seeking to understand what that looks like in their lives.  I can’t think of verses that focus the new believers on changing the world.  Rather, new believers are to focus on the the new creation that they already are, seeking to become more consistent with what they already are in Christ and how they live in the world.
It would seem that this emphasis will inevitably result in change in the world, but changing the world is not really the point of St. Paul’s writings on sanctification – the ongoing work by the Holy Spirit to change hearts and minds to be more Christ-like.  Changing the world is the work of God the Father through God the Son’s incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension and impending return.  God the Holy Spirit in the meantime is at work in changing individuals.  As more and more individuals are changed, then the world is bound to change as well.  But when we put the cart before the horse, so to speak, we leave the Biblical realm and focus to create a new one – that of saving the world ourselves.
The second half of the essay resonates deeply with me.  I was visiting with a woman in her 80’s the other day, and as we concluded our time together, she began singing Create in Me, part of Lutheran liturgy for many years.  She could sing it and remember it because she had sung it weekly for decades.  It had become part of her.  That’s a beautiful thing, and it’s something that contemporary worship often seems to lack.  There is no repetition.  Repetition is seen as part of a traditional mindset.  The same songs may be played from week to week (but not necessarily, and not every week), but the rest of the worship is free-form.  I can think of many aspects of liturgies that I’ve participated in over the course of my life, but there is nothing that sticks from purely contemporary worship environments.  Outside of the songs (which are often repetitions of key phrases without a great deal of theological depth), I can remember people but not what we did together.  That seems odd.
Is contemporary worship (meaning contemporary liturgy, not just new music) distinguished by its lack of patterns, by its refusal to create new traditions (which is a form of tradition in itself, ironically!)?  Is there a way for worship to be both contemporary as well as repetitive, so that those who participate can have the elements of worship seep into their bones?  I hope so, but I wonder as well.  

Finished – Mostly

September 11, 2012

We completed the move out of one home and into another this past week and weekend.  There’s a bit of settling to do in the new place (which is furnished, thankfully, so we were able to put all our stuff in storage for the time being), but it’s good to know that we have some breathing room as we continue to look for longer-term living arrangements.  

In the meantime, I apparently missed out on outages at my blog host (Godaddy.com) due to an Internet-based attack.  If you weren’t able to access this blog for some period of time in the last week, at least you know you didn’t miss anything.
Now that things are settling down, I’ll get back to posting, and looking forward to your suggestions and other ideas for discussion topics.  

Baby You Can Drive My Car

September 4, 2012

At least in California.

We became the second state in the country (Nevada beat us to it, those desert weasels) to legalize driverless cars.  
I’m pretty sure that those folks who are waiting around for SkyNet and machines to become conscious and take over the world and annihilate humanity, haven’t considered that the impetus for this might be a bunch of robot car drivers stuck in LA traffic.