Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Not Starting with a Blank Slate
We are a Church of the Word made flesh in a given place, at a given time. We believe in the Christ of history whom God has made known as His very own Son. We believe Scripture to be a book rooted in history and historical fact. The Gospel is not an idea which each generation reshapes to make its own. The Gospel is that this Jesus became flesh and blood, the Son of God incarnate, to suffer and die in our place on a cross that was made by us and for us, and to rise again that death may not claim us but life is ours forever. Jesus insists that this Gospel is fact, history, and concrete reality.
But when it comes to God, its seems impossible for us NOT to redefine God or to reshape His Word and the Gospel to fit our own presuppositions and parameters. In other words, we do not have a Jesus Christ who is yesterday, today and forever the same but a Jesus who is only the same for a moment and then becomes someone new and different as we need or as we shape Him.
The world may enjoy this a bit but it certainly does not need such a God or such worship. It may be entertaining for a moment or even comforting for a moment, but the world does not need such religion that has to be or allows itself to be reinvented every age and in every place. And that is why those who insist upon redefining the Church and worship have to be ahead of every trend or they are but a moment away from being out of date or irrelevant. The Church that is moved by such fear cannot confess the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ for this Gospel confronts and casts out such fear. Its greatest comfort to us is that it is not something subject to reinvention or redefinition by us but is revealed by the Father by the work of the Spirit, the once for all sacrificial death and life-giving resurrection which is applied to each and every moment but which, itself, remains forever the same.
So it is with great sadness that I read of so many "contemporary" worship congregations where staff and committee must begin each Monday with a blank sheet of paper to decide how to confess this God and how to worship Him next Sunday. What we do in the name of relevance is, in reality, the height of irrelevance to a world confronted by every kind of change yet in search of Him who changes not.
Language changes and so how we speak this Gospel can and does change... Music changes and musical forms in the liturgy may change and adapt. But the Gospel itself dare not change and the word lifted up by that music must not change. We cannot afford to stake our claim on one particular period in history and attempt to recreate that moment in time but neither can we afford to disdain what has come before and re-write the creeds and begin each Sunday with a blank sheet of paper. In reality, we worship not the God who is forever the same but ourselves -- and we are never the same but always changing.