Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I want to worship like Jesus...

Every now and again someone will try to get under my skin by asking me if Jesus would feel comfortable with the worship we know on Sunday morning.  Hmmmm. . .  Of course the illusion is the simple backwoods boy Jesus would prefer a simple prayer around the campfire or a mental meditation in the woods or some other nature experience to the "formal" worship of a liturgical church.  He would prefer a guitar tune to the mighty hymns and the grand sound of the pipe organ.  He would prefer a polo and khakis to the ornate and off-putting vestments of the priest.  He would talk to you and not preach.  Ahhhhh the grand delusion...

But of course it is not quite so simple.  Our Lord is no country preacher but as a first century Jew was well acquainted  the rituals and traditions of synagogue worship as well as the highly ritualized worship of the temple. What was this like? We do not have to guess.  We know that worship of the synagogue worship was both formal and liturgical. The service followed set prayers and form and drew upon the readings established for the Jewish church year (which is where we got it from). Structured around seasons and feasts, the worship of the synagogue involved reverence and decorum toward God and toward the Word of God (Torah).  The appointments of the synagogue were the finest the people could afford for nothing but the best was used in the service of the Lord.

Jesus also worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. The worship of the temple was anything but simple and plain.  In this splendid and ornate building attested to both by the building plans given for Solomon to follow and in the reconstructions that follow, the most ornate and elaborate art and metal work was seen.  We have a history of God making sure that the place where He was to be worshiped was sacred and looked like a temple befitting the Lord of all.  The tabernacle, and both the Herodian and Solomonic temples in Jerusalem were splendid, ornate and rich buildings.  What took place inside them was also elaborate, ceremonial, and ritualistic. Priests wore ornate vestments designed by God Himself.  There were processions into and around the temple, ornate gilded images of angels around the worship space.  Incense was burned before God to symbolize the prayers of the faithful rising to heaven and the pillar of smoke rising from the roof was visible to those all around the exterior of the building.

Would Jesus feel comfortable in the Divine Service here?  Well, you take a gander at this list and tell me if Jesus would be put off by the liturgical order and its rich ceremonial tradition:
  1. Beautiful, rich, elaborate and ornate structure for the temple of God
  2. Priests in rich vestments whose every detail was set by God
  3. Set readings from the Old Testament
  4. the chanting of psalms
  5. the burning of incense
  6. an altar of sacrifice
  7. golden candlesticks
  8. the bread of the presence
  9. the holy of holies (the most sacred domain within the temple)
  10. the lamp of the presence
  11. processions of priests and people
  12. the offering of the holy sacrifice
  13. the laver or font for cleansing the offerings
  14. water fonts for ritual ablutions before entering worship
  15. beautiful fabrics, carvings, textile, and embroidery...
If Jesus was accustomed to all of this, what would he think about the empty barns that too often pass as Christian churches?  Or the services dominated by music designed to entertain and those who perform for the benefit of the spectator?  Lets get real here...  Jesus is not indifferent to the things we might call extraneous or added extras.  In His Word Jesus shows His great affection for the worship of the synagogue and temple -- even going to the extreme of emptying the temple court yards of money changers so that the intercession and incense of prayer would not be obscured by business.  It is not what Jesus would think of liturgical worship but what does Jesus think of the health club atmosphere that includes Starbucks and lattes and self-help and self-interest activities that seem inevitably to overshadow reverence and awe?


Anonymous said...

Here here !

Christopher D. Hall said...

Out of the park!

Dr.D said...

Amen. Amen. Amen

Amen, Amen, Amen!

Fr. D+


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

And gold-embroidered curtains and images of cherubim all over the place.