Friday, March 22, 2013

Boring worship makes life always interesting

Okay, so maybe not THAT boring
(Photo by Louisa Billeter/Flickr)
If church-going Christians don't go through their work-a-day lives being surprised and/or offended by the ways of the world, the ways of the world have become the background by which they live those lives. This is a problem.

If church-going Christians come to worship expecting to be entertained (or even "inspired" or "recharged"), the ways of the world have become the background by which they come to worship. This is a problem.

The everyday practices of becoming the people of God are necessarily "boring" in that they must seep so far down into our bones that doing things such as praying, reading scripture, forgiving, making peace, raising children in the faith, loving neighbors and even enemies become second nature. Only when they become second nature can we begin seeing the world aright and stumble into more faithful being in the world as the people of God, hemmed into Christ's body.

Worship in this sense may at first seem "wasteful," as my friend Aaron Kauffman has recently said.

But here's the thing: When Christian worship and discipleship become "boring" in the (good) sense that they become our second nature, then life becomes permanently interesting. Once God's story and your place in it becomes the primary way in which you live and have your being in the world, then the world becomes rightly seen as the site of God's reconciling mission to all of creation. We want to run to the sites of God's healing and participate. We delight in forgiveness. We rush foolishly into loving enemies. We take joy in washing the dirty feet of sinners (including when those feet are our own in the hands of a sister or brother).

Yes, we will screw this up, making worship boring in the bad sense, in that it does not engage our entire body, not grabbing us by the guts, and thus failing to capture our imagination. Church will and often has become soulless drudgery and life-sucking rather than life-giving. But when this happens it signals a failure of imagination-capturing, and the remedy isn't necessarily making things flashy and exciting. (Seriously, click that link and hold on tight.)

Rather, we must be re-oriented, restored and re-storied to the ancient bodily wisdom of the church and capture the sense for why we're going through these "boring" motions and why they orient us by God's Spirit toward life abundant.

(Thanks to my brother in Christ, Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard, for our Spirit-filled planning session this morning for our series of Holy Week evening worship services hosted at Salem Mennonite Church in Freeman, SD. Thanks also to James K.A. Smith for his "Cultural Liturgies" series, which we are liberally pillaging for our sessions. Finally, thanks to Jeremy Yoder, pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in La Junta, Colorado, for the link to that ridiculous church website linked above.)

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