Not a lot of time for blogging this week as I’m in Vancouver attending the annual Regent College Pastors Conference. As always, it’s been great to get away and enjoy a time of worship and intellectual stimulation in the beauty of springtime in Vancouver. A few loosely connected reflections, coming out of what I have seen and heard so far this week…
I attended a fascinating workshop with Gordon Smith yesterday which talked about the place of the Lord’s Supper in the worship of the church. Smith asked the question, “Where and how is Christ present in the world today?” Answer: Word and Sacrament. Of course, that’s not exactly a new idea, but for many churches, the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is relegated to a kind of second-order activity that is useful for reminding us of certain historical events, doctrines, and existential realities, but takes its place behind the primary place where we encounter God, namely, in the preaching of the Scriptures.
Smith urged us to move toward an understanding of the Eucharist as the place where Christ encounters his church, where he feeds us, and offers himself to us so that we, in turn, may be empowered and sustained in offering ourselves to the world. For Smith, the practice of observing the Lord’s Supper only monthly or bi-monthly or quarterly is certainly worth questioning. What do we communicate to people when we make our service all about the sermon? Are we simply brains that need to be fed with doctrines/truths/moral exhortations/ideas? Are we, perhaps, communicating a truncated and inadequate spirituality by making the Eucharist supplementary to the “real” work of the sermon? Smith certainly thought so, and I’m inclined to agree…
This morning’s lecture from David Taylor also challenged us to consider how we might use imagination and art in our liturgies as a way of recognizing and affirming that we are whole people who encounter the risen Christ in a wide variety of ways. Taylor had us go through some creative exercises in adjusting our body positions and tones of our voices as we recited Psalms, arranging ourselves in different ways in the chapel (i.e., in the shape of a cross, facing the front, facing each other), and moving from standing to kneeling as we read Scripture together. Again, it was reinforced that we are so much more than brains that process information. We are whole people who must participate in worship as whole people.
The worship of the gathered church is not an idea-delivery system.
Finally, it has been great to simply participate in (as opposed to provide leadership for) worship. The singing at these events is always a real treat to be a part of. The songs are well-chosen and thoughtfully written, the musicianship is fantastic, the liturgies deliberately and skillfully crafted. It’s a privilege to be led well.
I couldn’t help but notice, though, the ubiquity of cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops in the chapel today. It seems that we pastors are constantly checking our buzzing devices for the latest emails, updates, texts, tweets, etc—even in the midst of worship! I even saw one gentlemen recording our time of singing on his little device. Perhaps our worship will be blogged or Facebooked or shared via some other media later today… As in so many other areas of our lives, it seems that the ultimate validation that an experience can receive is to be captured and somehow published or shared with a data-hungry world.
It makes me wonder… Are we losing the capacity to just be? To just participate? Must even worship be recorded and shared? Can we no longer participate in something without our restless brains thinking about how it might be captured or commodified? Can an experience be legitimate even if it never finds its way out into the ether?
Of course, I scratched out some notes for this post during a less than riveting point in the lecture this afternoon… And then I blogged about my experience of wondering if we have lost the capacity to experience something without hurling it into cyberspace for all to see…
I am, it seems, the chief of sinners.