Monday, November 8, 2010

Turn the Question around.

In the comments of the previous post, the question was turned on its ear. What of people who say that they get nothing out of Contemporary Worship - how would I respond to them. What follows is my response.

Well - if you say you get "nothing" out of the service and the Scriptures are read and the True Body and Blood of our Lord are distributed to you - what have you called these gifts? Are they not more than the vessel in which they are contained.

I think a better critique of contemporary services are not that they bring us nothing... but that they bring us so much less than they could - that they are often misfocused, misguided, and frustratingly inefficient at delivering God's gifts - for why should those gifts resound only at the reading of Scripture, at the distribution when if we simply used the historic liturgy things would be so much more Christ centered.

So, I suppose to one who thinks that there is nothing in a contemporary worship service (note - service, not just the concept and approach underlying CW), I would advise that person to actually be focused on where Christ is, and not just where He isn't and could be.

Otherwise - we fall into the same trap that the supporters of CW do. Are we basing our statements on the reality of what is said or our own thoughts and judgments of what we like? Is what I get out of the liturgy based on the fact that it gives me Christ... or I like its setting.

I love a chanted Divine Service. That is not the custom at my church. Am I getting less than I could -- while some would say yes or perhaps, I will say no. I receive Christ, just not with the dignity I would prefer - oh well, the Church is not based upon my preference. However, if I were to say I get nothing out of it. . . then there would be serious error and problems on my part.

But, an excellent question -- and one that needs to be asked. Often we who are "conservative" do not like to be measured by the very same measure we measure it out.

This does strike home with one of the things I have noted, and where I can often stand out from many whom I respect. The liturgy is important not for its own sake, but because it gives Christ. As for its dignity, worth - I am not bothered by that. The question I must ask is does it provide Christ. Therefore, I can conceive of historic forms being abandoned.

I just can't see how practically speaking that would be done properly. Although freedom allows for it -- why would freedom call for it? Why would something of such foundational identity be abandoned so whimsicially, especially for such selfish reasons as "I don't like it, it doesn't speak to me"

The historic liturgy is not adiaphora, it is not indifferent - but nor is it a mandatum, a sine non qua. It is what it is, a wondrous tool and treasure - and we would be wise to follow the advice of our fathers - we retain what may safely be retained - we retain what does no violence to the Gospel.

My qualms with contemporary worship is never that you "can't" - just that it is so often utterly foolish too. But I also worry that in our zeal against those acting the fool that we do not make a false idol, a mandatum non verum of the liturgy.

Of course, I think whenever there is an abuse, we tend to idolize it's opposite. Today, children are aborted, and many make idols of their children. Motherhood is despized, and thus we make an idol of motherhood (ora pro nobis, nunc et. . .).

I suppose in the early I would say many sought to avoid persecution, and the martyrs were made idols.

We are the middle way, the narrow path, eschewing the broad road on either side. Be wary of you might slip either way.

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