So today I had to go to a "Worship Enrichment" seminar (required for class). Here's some food for thought that I took away from it:
Pick Your Favorite One:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
Healer of our every ill
Bless the lord my soul (taize)
We are marching/Siyahamba
Jesus loves me
Shout to the Lord
Now pick one if it was the only song you could sing for the rest of your life.
"The worship of God's people flows on the river of music." We're missing out on the prophetic voices of the other streams when we only swim in one current.
We make creative use of words, music - and more! - from many times, places, peoples, and cultures to enlarge our vision of God's kingdom and situate ourselves properly within it. When we wrap our tongues around unfamiliar syllables and our ears hear unfamiliar sounds we are dipping our toes into the river of heaven.
"The Preached Word of God IS the Word of God." (my question: Can visual art be the Word also? It's important to note that preaching isn't always perfect - it can NOT be the word of God. Whereas, an image CAN be, or a kinetic experience.)
1 John 1:1-4 (that which we have seen, heard, touched with our own hands concerning the Word of life) - John is tipping us off to the different ways that people get in touch with the Gospel (Audio, Visual, Kinesthetic).
When we talk about the Word of God, we're talking about (a little hierarchy per the seminar speaker):
2) Bible (and I add tradition because you can't have one without the other - which Bible do we consult? You can't just say "the Bible" without more digging - in fact, I would say it's irresponsible to simply say "the Bible" - it doesn't exist without at least the tradition that gave us the canon, and our traditions have interpreted Scripture, you can't just say "Scripture's clear" because it's always been interpreted by the Church and we are products of that history - and for that matter, how has any of this happened without human reason? We don't have any way to read or interpret what the Bible says without our reason. I don't like this appeal to Biblical authority without acknowledging the role of tradition or reason. I'm so Anglican.)
3) Preached word of God (where do the sacraments go?)
4) Holy Spirit inside heart
A provacative question from Michelle: even though we are an image-oriented society, we still equate knowledge/intellectualism with words. Are we using the way of the world, what the world values, when we rely only upon words?
And I would add: Are we ignoring God's original revelation in creation? God doesn't tell, God shows: the Logos was flesh, not spoken; the HS came in tongues of fire, not a sermon; Revelation is depicted through outrageous imagery, not straight-up word. The old testament is full of actions and images. "This is my Son - listen to him" (yet the transfiguration is a visual event, not audio - and perhaps listen to him means look at him, at least in that moment?)
Does an image always need to be explained? Ah, do words also need to be explained? Do they mean anything? Can we really just go with words as the safe way of explanation anymore?
If images can help interpret words, then go that way!
"Our job as preachers is not to innovate but to tell the old, old story" Why does this statement give me such pause?!
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Interesting. What's the background of the speaker?
It doesn't seem to me that innovation is the opposite of telling "the old, old story." But I agree with you — what sort of preacher doesn't think he or she needs to innovate?
It reminds me of a part of a hymn that was very popular in the Southern Baptist church in which I grew up. The words can be found here
Oh, yes, he was definitely quoting that hymn, and I did catch the reference (we sang it in my formative church also).
The speakers that day were Reform theology, Presbyterian denomination.
Your last quote gives me pause because it seems to eliminate the unique work of the Holy Spirit in each generation. It's the old, old story, but we're not the old, old people. We have a different world, different questions, different realities. The role of the preacher is to take the old story and show how it is the living story.
To not innovate is to lose contact with what the Holy Spirit is doing with each specific congregation.
I think the trick is to innovate the way in which one tells the "old, old story" without doing violence to the story itself.
In the context of the musical content of the worship service: Yesterday in church we sang "Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!" a newer hymn sung to the tune "Earth and All Stars" -- yes, that infamous hymn pairing such magnificent music with such sucky lyrics. ("Loud building workers"? "Loud rustling dry leaves"? My personal favorite, "Loud boiling test tubes"?) Anyhow, I was initially quite excited that someone had finally redeemed the music to this hymn by pairing it with decent words...until I came to this stanza: "Walking the way, Christ in the center, telling the story to open our eyes; breaking our bread, giving us glory: Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise." Whoa, nelly. Who is giving whom glory here? Whom are we worshipping here? Who is the "agent" here?
To me that's an example of doing damage to "the story" by injecting the dominant culture's cult of narcissism into worship.
Marva Dawn is a theologian who addresses this sort of "dumbing down" of worship content in a very articulate and compelling way. Dawn's "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down" (Augsburg Fortress) is an excellent book that discusses the theology of worship.
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