Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Whom Christians Believe to Be...

I spent some time catching up on my listening of the various musical and worship events available through the Internet and came across a wonderful Evensong on Easter from an English cathedral.  Then the priest (bishop?) began a homily by describing the events of Holy Week and the crucifixion and death of Him "whom Christians believe to be" the Son of God.

Now I might expect a newscaster, reporter, or someone from outside the Church to speak this way but not from the pulpit of a Christian congregation and worship service.  It provided a stark reminder of how marginalized the crucifixion and resurrection has become from the Church's proclamation and life of Jesus Christ.  Another source spoke of how Easter has less and less religious meaning or tie to Jesus' resurrection among people in general and even Christians in specific.  I read a homily that was preached within an extremely liturgical service, rich with ancient ceremony and music, that followed the historic pattern of the service, and was stunned to hear the preacher speak of Easter's shalom (peace) but fail to tie this shalom to the death and resurrection of our Lord.  Instead it was a strange call to rise above the divisions and distinctions thrust upon us in the world and exude God's shalom to all people (as if that can be down without mention of the death of Christ or His resurrection).

So what are we to think of a Good Friday without a death and an Easter without a resurrection?  Unless we think it odd, we are not truly thinking in the frame of mind that Christ means for us and have mistaken what God did and its meaning for us and for the whole world.  Yet even as I lamented the failure of this sermon, the prayers, the lessons, the liturgy, and the hymns spoke what this preacher dared not say -- they were unmistakable in their confession of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, for the sins of the whole world and for an end to death's reign.

The preacher certainly failed to capitalize upon the opportunity of Easter to proclaim the Gospel to a full church building but even when he was silent, the hymns, liturgy, lessons, and prayers spoke clearly.  And this is why it is so darned important that we not mess too much with the liturgy.  If the preacher is not up to the task, then there must be the underpinnings of God's Word supporting in word and song and prayer the truth that endures for ever.  This is the battle being waged across our land and across our Synod.  Will the proclamation stand alone or will it stand within the partnership of and on the foundation of the liturgy, lessons, prayers, and hymns that reinforce its message.

If this is needed on Easter when we spend more time than ever trying to "get it right," how much more it is needed on the odd Sunday of the year when things are allowed to slide a bit more...

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