Monday, June 22, 2015


Liturgy Done Right?

Kirsten Guidero warns those of us that love liturgy that restoring liturgy to Evangelical expression will not, of itself, make up for Evangelical shortcomings. I don't think anyone can argue with that. It seems an obvious notion to me. It seems particularly obvious when liturgy is practiced with out explanation. Liturgy has, I think, largely been rejected as Evangelical expression becasue no one really knew what was going on. I only came to love it when I learned about it, its origins and purpose and then took it for my own becasue I loved what is was supposed to be about.

Her "solution;" however, is quite lacking:
In order that we may more fully honor and walk with God, identity formation requires discussions that tease out the differences and interplay between emotions, thoughts, minds, bodies, and brains. In my view, what forms Christian identity is not espousing a priority of the body and emotions over the mind and thoughts, but the turning over of the whole self into God’s loving hands. How do we describe and promote this process?

One way to move forward would be to develop more fully Smith’s ideas on the significance of desire. I suggest that Christian formation remains elusive unless the mind-body is not only connected but also animated by desire—which of course ebbs and flows and can be directed, encouraged, or squelched by certain environments and practices. In Smith’s fictional example, a man named Alex can in his “regular and repeated immersion in the practices of Christian worship” absorb the temperament of God so that he is able to forgive his wayward son (Imagining). But this is not quite true. It is not the liturgy, Alex’s bodily behavior, or the emotion Alex feels while at worship that develops him into a forgiving person. It is rather Alex’s reception of God’s presence that allows him to receive the gift of God’s character reorienting his perspective.

Smith would argue that participation in liturgy encourages such reception, but in my experience, liturgical Christians don’t seem more likely to forgive than non-liturgical Christians. In fact, I know many Christians opposed to liturgical worship whose openness to God in their Scripture reading and congregational service has formed their desires in incredibly virtuous ways. God’s indwelling is a gift capable of being nurtured by our choices but not something automatically produced by various methods of worship.

Focusing on desire underlines our need for God to refine what drives us, including our liturgical behavior. As we allow God to expose, test, and refine our desires, we will be pushed to change how we participate in, direct and preside over, or revise and steward liturgical forms: connecting together the mind, emotions, and body and enlivening the feedback loop between liturgy and ethics. We might also discover how to live in greater union with other Christians, based on principles other than whether or not they worship liturgically. Without a commitment to these processes, the movement to promote liturgy within evangelicalism runs the risk of becoming a fad failing to produce lasting impact.
This is going to sound really flip, but in any practical sense what does that mean? I don;t think it can be argued that desire is a key, but how do we do shape that? Individually or corporately? Honestly, I don't see this as meaningful in any real way. What we do, liturgy being one of them along with what we read, how we think and so forth, shapes what we desire, so why are these things in opposition?

I think there is a good point buried in here somewhere, I just think she missed the mark trying to make it.


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