Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Incarnational worship

Joe and Peter took issue in the comments with the previous post and I wanted to expand on my perspective (ie why I liked the article I linked to).

On the one hand we have worship that is centred on holiness, the mysterium tremendens et fascinans, the provoking of awe and (in the strict sense) ecstasy. This is more associated with the Anglo-Catholic style of worship.

On the other hand we have worship that is centred on being human, relational, relaxed and informal. This is more associated with the Evangelical style of worship.

Pushed to an extreme, is this not a failure (on both sides) to be incarnational? In other words, the Anglo-Catholic tendency is to err in losing the humanity, the evangelical tendency is to err in losing the divinity in worship?

Whereas Jesus unites the two; and therefore so must our worship.

My worry with what Peter and Joe argue is that when we are worshipping, we are specifically worshipping God, and our relationship to Jesus must contain - I suggest - more of the woman clutching his cloak or Thomas exclaiming 'My Lord and my God!' than simply gathering to share a glass of wine with a community of friends (and it is that, of course). We need to find the place of balance, the sweet spot of the Spirit.

Peter said "The assumption in the article is God/Jesus is only present in church, specifically at every communion..." - it's not so much that God/Jesus is ONLY present in church, but that he is indeed especially present in communion, there is a real presence which is significant. That is what lay behind my comment about the place of Old Testament worship (on which topic John Richardson has an excellent point here).

In other words, I think there is a further permutation of the evangelical error above, which is to flatten our experience of God. To say that God can be encountered everywhere and worshipped anywhere is true. Yet it is also true that we are a) sinful, b) therefore need to be taught how to worship and relate to God, and c) need to take account of the Scriptural witness that God is to be found and worshipped in particular places at particular times in particular ways. What has in fact happened, as a result of that evangelical emphasis (Protestant emphasis) upon God being worshippable anywhere, is that God ends up being worshipped nowhere - because we no longer know how to worship. The historic desire to avoid sacerdotalism has eviscerated the holy and we now live in a culture full of the spiritually starving who see what goes on in church as irrelevant to their hunger. The one leads inexorably to the other.

It is indeed possible to be mystically united with God at all times and in all places. Yet I suspect that any human beings like me need training and assistance (the what, the why and the how) in order to attain such an exalted spiritual state. This is exactly what communion does - it is our principal spiritual medicine which heals us and enables us to share in Christ's life. After all, Jesus didn't just come to abolish the Temple; he came to abolish it and replace it, with his Body. If we fail to take that seriously, ie with sufficient awe and reverence, then I believe that we are not keeping the faith, and we are not growing in the Spirit.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.