LITURGY, HIGH CHURCH AND YOU
You probably had to be there.
Our service planning team gathered last Wednesday for an Easter Design meeting. Our pastors had requested we research ways to incorporate some aspects of a High Church/liturgical worship service into our Easter services. Now, I'm new to leading this group and what I expected to get pushback on were the style issues: organ music, old hymns, stained glass art (we're pretty contemporary in our music preferences in this group...not necessarily modern, but contemporary; if you polled us privately you'd probably discover a whole lot of the greatest hits from Chicago and Aerosmith and James Taylor hiding in our ipod playlists! and don't you dare tell anyone that my favorite song of all time is sung by Rupert Holmes!)
ANYWAY...chalk it up to inexperience, but I was totally taken off guard at the passionate response not to the style of service, but to the association with anything High Church. Even though all the research I had done prior to the meeting was from Episcopal and Lutheran churches, those who had been misled by their Catholic upbringing were not interested in borrowing any tradition or liturgy that might remind them of the experience.
It was pretty short-sighted of me to not plan for this since I have a similar reaction to anything that smacks of 1970's Baptist Church (in case you are wondering, a worship service planned around this feel would include a lot of plaid polyester and culottes and American flags for the bicentennial celebrations as well as a healthy dose of altar calls for people to pray the sinner's prayer so that they could be sure to wind up in heaven when they die; also the bulletin would include a list of other ministries to avoid because of their association with charismatic churches. To this day I refuse to call a "church family get-together" a potluck fellowship! And this doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about the 1980s Baptist church...).
This is going to be a great ongoing discussion for us. I'll post the content of a follow-up email I sent to the service planning team in case you are interested in how I equate a Union Center Easter service using liturgy to a Christmas dinner with Brian's family.
I read through the whole book in three sittings. I can't recommend this kind of Bible reading enough...it has deepened my understanding of both Acts and Romans in a big, big way. When I read large portions in a sitting I feel like I get to know the author behind the writing so much more. It's harder to take verses out of context and it's harder to feel numb to amazing truths just because I've happened to hear them recited a million times in my life. When I'm reading this way, I have the feeling of a person who is just hearing the story for the first time. It's a feeling of 'you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-this-is-way-too-good-to-be-true-i-want-to-follow-jesus-sign-me-up!' The whole story of the gospel is so much more obvious to me this way.
So, over the next few posts, I'll write a few of my favorite verses -- seen in technicolor this time around: Romans 4:2-8 -- (from The Message; all italics are mine)
If Abraham, by what he did for God got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we're given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, 'Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.
If you're a hard worker and do a good job you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift! But if you see the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it - you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked -- well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God.
David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:
Now, don't you want to follow a God like that?
Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped
clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.
And, lastly, on a NEW TOPIC:
Brian and I ordered the movie Crash from Netflix and watched it Saturday night. (hard to watch, but revealing of the depravity of man) And I believe it was providential that when we turned off the movie, already feeling sober and repentant, the TV channel we turned to was playing a documentary of the life and death of Dr. King. May God bless today those who have committed their lives to fighting the status quo of greed and corruption on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves. I will become a more mature believer when I understand how this applies to my personal daily choices. I am praying for this to happen for me soon.