Thursday, January 11, 2007

Worship (huh...what is it good for?)

3BT: 1. clouds in LA - rare and powerful. 2. last night's sunset - the one good result of smog is our neon sky. 3. my reading this morning on Mary Slessor, which ended with a prayer from which I took three phrases to meditate upon: may we not be discouraged or despair, may I be an instrument of God's will, give me grace to discern my call. Indeed.

Last night I read Anselm's Prologion. Now I can't say I much agree with Anselm about anything, particularly his attempts to squeeze God into a Neo-Platonic Classical Theism model (it's just so not the God of the Bible!). But I will say that it was incredibly beautiful to read. And it's kind of amazing and sad to me that we've gone from this:

Now then, little man, for a short while fly from your business; hide yourself for a moment from your turbulent thoughts. Break off now your troublesome cares, and think less of your laborious occupations. Make a little time for God, and rest for a while in him. Enter into the chamber of your mind, shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him, and, when you have shut the door, seek him. Speak now, O my whole heart, speak now to God: "I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, do I desire."
And do thou, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek thee, where and how to find thee....I was made in order to see thee, and I have not yet done that for which I was made....
I pray, O God, that I may know thee, that I may love thee, so that I may rejoice in thee. And if I cannot do this to the full in this life, at least let me go forward from day to day until that joy comes to fullness. Let the knowledge of thee go forward in me here, and there let it be made full. Let love for thee increase, and there let it be full, so that here my joy may be great in hope, and there it may be full in reality....Meanwhile, let my mind meditate upon it, let my tongue speak of it. Let my heart love it, let my tongue discourse upon it. Let my soul hunger for it, let my flesh thirst for it, let my whole substance desire it, until I enter "into the joy" of my Lord, who is the triune and one God, blessed forever. Amen.

To this.

Gee, what a difference a thousand years makes.

Last night I read a Worship Leader magazine, after Proslogion. It's just not fair to poor Chuck Fromm and his mag, to follow up such a class act. But less than the articles (which I ignored) I was pretty much intrigued and horrified by the advertising. There's just an industry for everything these days. There's a company that will do all your setup if you church in a temporary space. There's software that lets you do virtual environments to get your space setup (John and I were joking that it was worship SIMS. You add another guitarist! 5 more people got saved!). There are all these things to buy to help you lead worship better: software, services, books, cds.

It's the Worship Industry. And I thought I was offended by Industrial Food.

Well I guess all things must become factory-ized in our day. It's just what we're used to. If it's not a commodity, we don't know how to relate. But the Holy Spirit can't be a commodity. You can't buy her or sell her or find software that will guarantee she shows up. And you know what's funny? I've felt the Spirit's presence most strongly pretty much always in places where the technology is minimal. I know that lots of people will disagree and say their screens and synthesizers (or music from a cd playing on the car stereo) and powerpoint sermons offer them true worship. But when I've been to those churches, and tried to worship, I've been distracted, or felt like I'm being entertained or just watching TV, or felt marketed to, or if I'm really getting into the music, I realize I'm just enjoying it on the level of any other concert. Sure, God can speak through a concert. But shouldn't church be more?

Anyway, I am spiteful towards this magazine and I know it, and I have to ask forgiveness for that. But I just hate worship being a commodity. I don't ever want to buy and sell God-experience. I guess that's why I've retreated to the Episcopal church! (although even my home church is now hosting Willow Creek style conferences complete with Southern Baptist leaders - ewwwwwww *shiver*)


Anonymous said...

hmmm. have you ever read NT Wright? Ok, dumb (and possibly unrelated) question. Anyway, the thing About the passage you quoted is, it seems anti-bible too. God should be able to be experienced in all places: the "be still and know" places and the loud concert, in the prayer closet and the bustling city mall. Otherwise, how can God be Lord of all?

Stasi said...

Of course God is able to be experienced in all places, but seems to come through easier in the silence and stillness. Remember, God wasn't in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but in the still small voice. I think we want the earthquake, our culture certainly has trained us to expect it. But throughout the history of Christianity those who have found God in the most intimate ways report finding her in less noisy, crowded areas.

It's no limit to God's power, but it is a limit on how much God will scream to get our attention. If we're busy with concerts and malls (and our own ideas of worship), what would make God think we need anything more? I don't believe God forces herself on anyone and she's certainly not going to compete for your attention.

But as I said, I am not crazy about Anselm's theology, I just love his use of language. It's beautiful. I hugely disagree, but it's beautiful!