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Dirty Talk about Worship

     It’s part of the Sunday liturgy of most families.  A kind of lauds through which the morning of the Lord’s Day is to be acknowledged:     

     “Go clean up.  I am not taking you to worship looking like that.”
     When I was growing up, I was taught that cleanliness was next to godliness.  Once I became a parent, it was not long before I realized the truer truth, that cleanliness with boys is also next to impossible.

Confronting the "Everything is Worship" Mindset

“Everything we do is worship.”
      That sound admirable.  And, to be honest, we are faced with a problem of vocabulary.  The meaning of whatever people mean by "worship" can be pretty fluid.
     But, at least in the sense the word might have been used in reference to the temple sacrifices or the praises of the synagogue, the statement is an absurdity – a self contradiction.

There Was this Preacher in the Bar...

So, the bartender looks up, and this preacher comes in...
      Wait. Is this some kind of joke?
       Not exactly. But it is pretty much what happened one night in the bar of a hotel in Indianapolis...
       A few years ago a young Canadian studying ministry at Kentucky Christian College (now Kentucky Christian University) traveled to Indianapolis for a two-day national gathering of preachers. He, along with other students, anticipated hearing outstanding preaching in a gathering of more than four hundred men.
       The student's name was Jacques. But, since he was named after his father back on Prince Edward Island, everyone who knew him just called him Junior.
It was a little after midnight and Junior was sitting by himself at a table in the little club having a drink on the main floor of the hotel.

I Am Not a Temple of the Holy Spirit

       I am not a temple of the Holy Spirit?
       I am a part of that one temple.  But, not one of millions of little temples.
       That needs a little more explanation.  Or, of course, you could just proclaim me a heretic and start looking for firewood.  Okay, so, while somebody gathers some branches and kindling, bear with me and read the rest of this post. 

The More Things Change: Worship from 1850 to 2010

This post is not poetic, reflective, or inspiring.  It is, to me at least, interesting.  We all know that worship has changed over the years.  We often think of those changes as if it went from the Latin Mass to Protestant hymn singing to contemporary praise worship.  The changes are both more subtle and more radical than that.  It is also interesting that worship is often changed by completely unrelated things, such as the coming of electrical wiring or the invention of the radio.

Every generation wants to believe they are unique.  A "watershed" moment in human history.  More change today than ever before.  No one before us has seen anything like this.  This, at least, is what we tell ourselves. A better informed understanding of history, however, often challenges this somewhat self-serving confidence.

Refused Communion

     This is a true story.  My memory of it is not as rich in detail as I would like.  It is truth, nonetheless.  I was a child.  It was a Sunday morning in early fall.  We were in church in Keokee, Virginia.  We came expecting that worship would include Communion.  But, an elder from the church announced that it would not.  Oh, it had been prepared.  Everything was right there on the table in front of the pulpit.  Everyone could see it.  But, that Sunday, we discovered, it was not going to be served.

You Should Have Been There: The Problem of Multi-Campus Churches

     Not long ago, one of the largest and best known Christian churches in Lexington expanded their ministry by planting a new site a number of miles south of their main campus.  Land was acquired and a building was education and worship was completed.
     The preacher of the church, one of the best known pastors across the nation, was a major reason the church was so large.  So, naturally, it was decided that the new location would use a projected presence of their lead pastor.  

Church-Mart:: We Do Church Your Way

                 From    Pastor of Expansion
                 To         Associate Pastor of Commercials
                 RE:       This week's radio ad for WRNG AM/FM
     A once-in-a-lifetime bargain for you and your family.
     That's right, this is the church you’ve been waiting for all life.  Come on down this Sunday.  We're the big church just off exit 17. 
     Don’t like singing in church?  We don't even try.
     Sick and tire of religion that all rules, but no tools? 
     Tired of the narrow-minded?  Afraid of the broad-minded?  Well, how about a church that never expects you to have any kind of mind at all?  Isn’t that what you’ve been hoping to find?  Then this Sunday, you know where you need to be.

What I Learned from a Baptist Preacher

       Those of us in ministry have a hard time being gracious when a new church starts a block from our own.  It's never easy when a new man or woman comes on the staff who is a lot more talented than us.  We try to be polite, but it seems pretty unfair.  Some of our co-workers will be on our side, of course.  Other people will come up and encourage us by pointing out what a rotten deal we are getting.
       In this one city I know, that will remain nameless, that's pretty much what started happening.  One of the Baptist preachers there had been struggling for some time. 

Rain on the Unjust

I am writing this morning from Austin, where the drought-parched Texas countryside has been thoroughly drenched from a series of late-night thunderstorms.  We do not normally welcome the rain.  Dark cloud and storms are images of suffering or danger or worse.  Behind every dark cloud lies a silver lining assumes the speaker does not seem to think much of dark clouds.

Why Sunday Morning?

       The Lord's Day.
       For many people, it's just another way of saying Sunday.  Certainly, as scholars acknowledge, that's part of what John on Patmos or the writer of the Didache mean in using the phrase.  The first day of the week which, in typical Semitic fashion, is also the eighth day of the week.  The first and the last.
       Two reasons are noted in the ancient church to explain why this day, and not the Jewish Sabbath, became the day of gathering.

Broken Things at Home and Church

       Once a year we have a garage sale.  For me, it is not a happy time.  It is a kind of cathartic ritual of displaying my many home repair failures in broad daylight before our chuckling neighbors.  Behind the wreckage of my folly in believing the DIY YouTube video that assured me this was a repair job any idiot could do at home, it is not hard to imagine snippets of marital dialogue.
       “Turn it back off!  Whatever you did made it worse!”
       “Look, is that smoke coming from the back of the microwave?”
       “OK, the repairman came this morning.  He worked on it for two hours.  He said whatever you did to it the last time you tried to fix it…well, let me read it off the $200 bill he left for labor, “Like Humpty-Dumpty, this thing is broken – broken is underlined.  PS: In the future, keep all tools away from your husband.”
       And so it goes. 

Theological Education: Why Waste the Money?

       Education does not really matter.  
       Whether everyone accepts that or not is irrelevant.  In today's world, we know that it's true.

       So, the six people in the search committee looked at each other around the table.  They knew they'd found their man.

Church-going Godless

I can pray without loving God
I can go to church without loving God
I can love worship music without loving God
I can be inspired by great preaching without loving God

Hauerwas Critiques Contemporary Worship

In 2001 Time magazine called Stanley Hauerwas America's best living theologian (Hauerwas wryly responded, "Best is not a theological category.")

Here's a link to a brief video in which he expresses his dismay over the ugliness of contemporary worship.  Always challenging. Sometimes outrageous.  Consistently Christ centered and radical.  Hauerwas' observations need to be watched and serious discussed by anyone interested in pursuing worship that is faithful to what God intended to the church to be about.

Hauerwas on Contemporary Worship

Finding God in a Crowd

My wife and I have just returned from traveling in the western US.  The scenery from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains to the stony shores of Big Sur along the pacific was spectacular.  To many Americans, these vistas of unspoiled wilderness are an opportunity to commune with the spiritual.  C. S. Lewis reflects this modern perception when, in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan’s country is described as green hills that climb higher and higher until they disappear from sight.

It might be surprising to note that only from the eighteenth century onward do artists paint great scenes of nature as images do be hung in the houses of the wealthy.  Prior to that, scenes of nature, when depicted at all, only served as a backdrop to whatever was the main subject of the painting.