Tuesday, April 15, 2008

imaging and enacting heaven on earth

A single Sunday morning worship service, preferably no later than 10:00, probably would help encourage inquiring newcomers to return and also benefit those of us who like to attend adult bible study. To get my own bias out of the way, despite my preference for musically blended worship I detest most 19th century hymnody, which is what usually happens at the traditional end of most blended worship, so unless we're having a dollop of North German baroque along with some harmonically discordant, rhythmically asymmetrical 20th-21st century music that sounds very unlike many people's idea of conventional church music, I'm cool with mostly praise music.

However, my primary concern is that we at Old Condo Shadows and in all churches offer public worship that reflects and embodies God's incarnation and Self-giving in Jesus Christ, which clearly happens whenever we celebrate a baptism or the Lord's Supper, but it also becomes possible with a carefully constructed order of worship sourced from scripture and history—including our own history here on this mesa.

As Christians, God's people in Jesus Christ, each Sunday is a day of resurrection, a time especially to remember who we are, Whose we are and Who has called us by retelling and re-enacting the meta-narratives of redemption, of deliverance from death to life in the Exodus and Passion/Easter stories within the context of public Lord's day worship; in these stories we find healing memory and discover hope for a free future. As we invite our neighbors and other people who don't have much church experience, we're hoping to meet and to reach them where they are and speak in a language they'll understand, which can be a precarious endeavor. But did God ever call the people of God to live in ways congruent with their local cultures? Or in a radically culturally incongruent, actually counter-cultural manner? Are we presenting inquiring newcomers with a choice, a real alternative to costly and deathly consumerism and related excesses? Are we telling and showing the world something very different from anything they've previously experienced? Do we dare imagine we can domesticate the wildness of Jesus? For sure it is about the ways our lives demonstrate faithfulness and obedience to the God Who covenants with us in Jesus, but it is equally about how together we worship the Crucified and Risen One, and it may require some explanation and interpretation, not only for so-called outsiders but also reminders for the insiders among us. It is strange; in many ways it is wholly "other than", this reality of a people (us!) who already have experienced their first death and their second birth, this reality of seemingly regular, ordinary, everyday people who follow a crucified outcast, trusting the God Whose ultimate word is resurrection from the dead.

I'm asking questions rather than offering answers, and I'll conclude by asking if our presence in our neighbors' lives and in the world beyond this corner of Paradise can be partly in our own world, partly in our neighbors', and wholly in the sovereignty of heaven? Can our Sunday worship reflect such a way of life? There are no easy, instant answers, and we'll need to anticipate a lot more changes as the months unfold.