The Word Made Flesh: Making Worship Available To the Senses

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I have been thinking of doing this post for a while……but now I finally have the time to sit and write it. 🙂

A few weeks back I attended a night of Hymns and Anthems @ the cathedral here in London. During that performance, something happened which left an indelible impression on my soul.

For those who have never been to a hymns and anthems concert, they are quite unique. The event is organized as a sort of back and forth between the choir and the audience. The congregation is urged to sing along to familiar worship songs, and then invited to listen to choral and instrumental pieces…. Rather like a musical conversation.

Anyhoo, about half-way through the show, the conductor of the Fanshawe Chorus invited those of CRC background to sing a traditional Dutch hymn.

I kid you not when I say that well over 30 people flooded the chancel and altar where the chorus was assembled. Voices from all sides–trained and untrained–burst into worship:

Translation: Glory to God in the Highest. Peace be on earth. Amen.

Granted, it may be that I was struck so profoundly by this because my girlfriend was raised Dutch Reformed…a denomination that has incredible faith and devotion attached to it…..but I think it has more to do with the fact that I was reminded of something more fundamental.

The act of worship is not supposed to be completely intellectual…..and–contrary to what most Anglicans would have us believe by their actions–it is most definitely *not* supposed to consist of having your head buried in a liturgical book like so:

Maybe it’s because I grew up RC and learned the liturgy by rote…..but it never made sense to me to concentrate so heavily on the words. That is only one aspect of worship.

There are all kinds of ways in which the worship of the Church seeks to engage the whole body:

Sight:

Smell:

Touch (the kiss of peace):

Hearing :

and of course Taste:

I realize that not all of you who read this blog may be sacramental….and yet it seems to me that to short-change any of the senses in worship is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the Incarnation.

We stand on the cusp of Advent…a season where we contemplate the coming of Christ….not just in the spiritual sense, but in a real and bodily way.

Jesus Christ is living proof that our God is a messy God. A loving community of Three Persons, One God….that literally puts hands into the mud and molds man out of clay…..a Father, Son and Spirit who literally get down and dirty….all so that we might be saved and lifted up. 🙂

The next time you are at a worship service of any kind…..Look around you…..try to find the ways in which different communities try and engage all of the senses. Senses that the Christ-child has made holy by his immanent arrival.

To look with intention about how we live, breathe and move in the Spirit is to make our faith more than words and intellectual assent. It is Incarnational theology lived out…..it is a resurrection people finding their heritage, and a way of life that involves God in every part of our well-being…..whether in body, spirit or mind. +

Evening Prayer: August 18th (Combo Post)

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Psalms:131, 132, 134, 135
Old Testament: 2 Sam 19:1-23
New Testament: Acts 24:1-23
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Hail Mary by Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31)

Say it with me…..all together now 😉

Lord have mercy upon us, and write both these thy laws in our hearts we beseech thee.

Unlike some of my contemporaries, I was first introduced to the Anglican Church using ye olde Book of Common Prayer

For those who don’t know…the Shema (“Hear O Israel”) and the response I quoted above serves as one of the opening prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy.

What I find interesting is that this prayer frames the whole point of the worship that follows.

Everything from the readings, the General Confession, General Intercession, the Offertory Prayer, the Prayer of Humble Access, and sharing in the Sacred Meal itself….. all of these acts are meant not only to serve as a reminder of God’s promises….but to literally change us and to inscribe God’s law and love into our own hearts.

Another important thing to remember is that God would never ask us to do something that he Himself would avoid.

As we bear witness to the priests words and manual acts over the gifts.. we are reminded about how God Himself, the Word made Flesh lived out the two greatest commandments… withholding nothing so that the whole world might be saved….. and that all would come to know the infinite love the Trinity has for all creation.

It is no coincidence that after sharing in the Body and Blood, the BCP then offers a second responsory prayer:

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee. And although we are unworthy, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Just as we respond to the prayer of the Shema asking God to move us and shape us, we respond to the Eucharist–the Sacred time in which we are not far from God–with an earnest plea that our new hearts and cleansed bodies can be used for God’s glory….that we too, like our Father will withhold nothing in proclaiming the gospel to all nations and to reconcile everyone we meet to the LORD.

May we always be strengthened by word and Sacrament to bear the image of Christ everywhere we go….and to live out the commandments. +

A little something to inspire :)

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I’m still a little groggy this morning…..so instead of a Morning Prayer post, I offer a musical interlude courtesy of Mumford and Sons……May your day be blessed +

Evening Prayer: 1st Sunday of Lent (Combo post)

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Psalms: 63, 98, 103
Old Testament: Deut 8:1-10
New Testament: 1 Cor 1:17-31
Gospel: Mark 2:18-22
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a commentary on the Psalms by St. Augustine

[The LORD] humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3)

I’ll tell you what else you don’t live off alone….beer coupled with jagar shots :S…..Needless to say I was hurtin’ this morning. Coupled with daylight savings time, I didn’t even make it out to church today 😛

But anyways enough about my drunken adventures….today’s lection from Deuteronomy provides us with the original text which Christ uses in answering the first temptation.

Food is an important part of our lives, and we cannot survive without it for very long….but it is not the only thing which provides sustenance. Just as we need material bread to live….we also need to feed our souls with the bread of the Word.

That’s why the fasting portion of Lent was such a central focus. It wasn’t necessarily the sacrifice of hunger that was the focus, but rather on the thing that took its place…..namely contemplating our relationship with God.

In contemplating this relationship…..the road will not always be easy….when we give God our full attention….there is the possibility that a lot of feelings can be drudged up. Remembering not only those times when we felt blessed by God…..but also those times in which we felt angry with him……lost in the dark night of the soul.

Both parts of this journey (angst and joy) are essential to bring us closer to Christ….since at its core, it involves being honest with our own spiritual struggles.

As you experience these emotions in all of their variety, may you embrace them fully….it is only by continuing to walk that we will make it through the desert and find ourselves in the promised land of prosperity, peace, and wholeness. +

Evening Prayer: January 19th

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Psalm: 119:25-48
Gospel: Mark 4:1-20
Reading from the RC Magisterium: An excerpt from Lumen Gentium

OK so confession time…….I am frustrated right now……For the past 2 years I’ve been trying to read (and actually finish) Dark Night of the Soul a “spiritual classic” from the 15th century….it is full of /FAIL

John of the Cross’ basic thesis is this: The soul must be purged of all worldly desires and sense of self-worth so that Divine Light might enter….much like the brokenness of tonight’s Psalmist.

My soul clings to the dust;
revive me according to your word.
When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word. (Psalm 119:25-28)

Fine. Good. I’m with ya..the thing is he goes on for 110 pages making the same point over and over……SO boring! 😛

I’m wondering whether anyone who has read the book (or find’s John of the Cross’ thesis to be true) can help me understand a) why this is considered a pivotal work in Christianity and b) While I’m all for self-emptying, is it really possible from a human perspective??? I’m not sure……..

Here endeth my rant…..Apologies if you were looking for something a little more inspirational tonight 😛 +

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