Friday, August 03, 2007

Church in the World; church and the world 3

Last week again I facilitated a session of the Theology of the Cross course I originally developed for Lent 2007. We discussed our living as a paradoxically hidden sacramental presence to the world, and I mentioned in passing the concept of neighborology from Water Buffalo Theology. Yes, this class also got handouts with some of my notes from WBT. Does the cross remain an outrageous offense to contemporary sensibilities, sensitivities and logic? I believe it does!

On Lent 5, toward the end of the actual Lenten series, I blogged on this site about geographically, socially, culturally, chronologically, theologically and/or spiritually liminal modes of Christian presence and asked if our presence in the world and in our neighborhoods can be a liminal, in the process of becoming, though not-quite-yet one? Partly in our own world and way, partly in theirs, and wholly in the sovereignty of heaven?

I've been trying to listen carefully and comment selectively to what people say about worship style and content; the friends with whom I attended Saturday evening worship at Rancho Bernardo Pres said something about people getting confused by "ritual." That's understandable, so how about an occasional instructed liturgy? It doesn't need to be highly detailed or elaborate, but if people learn to appreciate the origins and intent of what we do during worship, it would help worship become more meaningful to them.

Here are a few more sort of paraphrases from my old blog(s):

The synagogue's and later the church's liturgy developed and became shaped in ways that address, interact with and speak to our human condition and demonstrate God's response to creation's need. In Hebrew history, the past acts of God gave Israel confidence about the future and willingness to continue in covenantal partnership with God; because they knew about God's past faithfulness, they could face the future with a living hope. Israel persistently kept recalling and re-membering her history with the God of the Covenants with rituals, celebrations and liturgies; within a context that was play more than it was anything else, Israel told and retold the story of creation's experience with God. Like God's primal people Israel, in our worship we, the contemporary people of God, remember who God is, who we are, God's redemptive actions, and we announce our dreams and hopes for the future. Not only is much of our liturgy in the present, just as play is—like children's playtime and the various play endeavors of adults, worship also creates a new and different self-contained world existing alongside of and within our everyday world.

Similar to play, and parallel to our dreams, worship ends the dichotomy we often make between material and spiritual. When we play, when we dream, when we worship, we live fully in the present—creative, responsive, and responsible. Being Christian means to live precariously in the interplay between two worlds, just as Jesus lived. As God's children we will be completely free and alive without constraints some day, and our playful attitudes and our liturgies are the first fruit, the guarantee that finally we will end up in God's image, since it is God's indwelling Spirit that makes possible our play, our dreams, our celebrations.

In worship, and especially when we celebrate a baptism or the Eucharist, we carry with us beyond the worshiping assembly and beyond the church building a microcosm of a redeemed world; we become a living and a life-giving memory of God's actions in history, especially in Christ Jesus, as the Holy Spirit calls and enables us, Jesus again becomes alive in the world and we become sacraments mediating between God in Christ and the world. We offer the world a living connection to the heaven of God's Reign on earth, living as visible, tangible signs of God-with-us, God-for-us, God-among-us—maybe especially as we practice neighborology, the word about the neighbor?!

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