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. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of All Hallows (Nov. 1st)

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Psalm: 111, 112
Old Testament: 2 Esdras 2:42-47
New Testament: Hebrews 11:32-12:2

Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honour and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures for ever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant. (Psalm 111:2-5)

A few months ago, I was talking with a friend on FB about reading the Bible. She is genuinely interested in reading it, but–like all of us–has a hard time with some of the more miraculous stories, and the depiction of God as a vindictive deity.

I promised her that I would post on this blog about how the Bible might be read in a different way. A way that focuses on relationship rather than by myth, theology or narrative…so here’s my best shot at it. 😉

Like the psalmist says this morning, all of God’s works are known….and like all great acts of history, those deeds tend to be recorded. 🙂

The central themes of the Old Testament are many…..but they tend to revolve around two important aspects…creation and covenant.

In Genesis, God creates the world…..and it is not just good but very good. He also establishes a covenant with humanity that he will make them prosper…and that He will constantly be at their side.

But human beings–made in the image of an all-creative Father–also have an innate desire to be independent…..which causes them to sin….and to turn away from their one true companion; the God who made them.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, the rest of the Bible focuses in on how that broken relationship is lived out, and repaired…..that intimate bond between Father and children is built up, broken, and established again in a constant cycle. A cycle that ultimately ends with God and humanity coming out in joy and praise to take care of the earth and each other.

At its core, the Bible is a multi-faceted library of documents. I would go even so far as to say that it is an ongoing and eternal conversation.

As the reader flips through the pages of text, they are exposed to a multitude of voices……some divine, some human. Some sentiments of anger, hatred, and frustration…..met in turn with compassion, forgiveness, and Grace.

Despite what the reformers would have us think, Holy Scripture does not interpret itself …Adhering to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy will only leave with a pounding headache and a broken heart.

As a piece of literature, inspired by God and touched by the human hand…..it is a mixture of perfection and inadequacy….a living encounter between the Creator who wants his presence to be known…..and a world that struggles to listen for it’s Maker’s voice.

On this Feast of All Saints, one thing to keep in mind that we too are saints…by virtue of being baptized 🙂

Whenever we open the Bible we join with the thousands who have come before us in trying to discern God’s will and true hope for us. We add our 2 cents (or 5 cents or 25 cents) to the conversation.

In the struggle to understand what God is saying to us and what we are saying to one another, Christianity is changed from a hollow, inanimate religion into a living, breathing, challenging Body of faith

Sure, this Body is weak and wounded at times….but is also glorious and triumphant when we get the message of Jesus right ;)….a message that we as Gentile North American inheritors of the Gospel have come to know through the written translation of the Bible.

Thanks be to God for the gift of his word on paper….but more importantly for the Word made Flesh that speaks from within those pages. Alleluia! +

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: Feb. 18th

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Psalm: 107:1-32
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on First John by St. Augustine

Some wandered in desert wastes ,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress (Ps. 107:4-6)

Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons
,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour;
they fell down, with no one to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress; (Ps. 107:10b-13)

Some were sick* through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
They loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress; (Ps. 107:17-19)

If we read Psalm 107 too quickly we tend to miss some of the subtleties here. While the Psalm as a whole is directed to the congregation of Israel. We actually have God showing up and reaching out to three different groups of people: the lost, the captive, and the sick. Hmmm where have I seen this before?????????

The thing with this passage is that God shows up to His people in spite of our bad behaviour and our tendency to stray away from the Father. The Father shows up anyway…. but why???

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Let us take Luther’s mantra to heart….to believe the Word of God that tells of Jesus Christ our Saviour…..who came to make us whole through pure Grace and and to take comfort in the faith that all our sins are forgiven and that we have been made new. Alleluia!+

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