Friday, July 1, 2016
Worship is strange. . .
The Divine Service is, in fact, quite odd, strange, and incomprehensible outside the faith. Those who visit the Divine Service find not only the weird and the strange, but even that which is shocking a not a bit creepy. We speak of God who is present and yet we do not see Him with our eyes. We talk of the God who made all things from nothing and then just casually drop that this God became flesh and blood in a Virgin by the Holy Spirit. We are attentive to the words of a book written thousands of years ago and claim this is the living Word of God, the God who is speaking through what was once spoken and then written. And then there is the oddest of the oddities -- we eat God. And we eat him because He has commanded us to break the bread and give thanks with words spoken once two thousand years ago that still effect what they did that one night in the Upper Room.. He has not only asked us to do this but promised to be in this holy eating and drinking to bestow forgiveness, life, and salvation. We actually believe that an event that occurred over two thousand years now is made present and we participate in its communion as they did who first watched Jesus act and heard His voice immediately. This is not mere drama or symbolism but God doing what He has promised to do and we eating His flesh and drinking His blood. To those of us who were raised in the faith this might not seem so strange but to the stranger in our midst this has to be nothing less than shocking and perhaps not a little off-putting. It might not be such a bad idea for us to remember how strange we appear to those not yet of the faith. It is something wonderfully normal to us but shockingly strange to those not of the Kingdom.
Now I am not at all suggesting that we prevent those not yet of the faith from witnessing what happens on Sunday morning but I am saying that if we are faithful to the Word of God and the tradition of the faith, then they will not miss how odd it is what we are there for, what we believe God is doing, and what we believe we are receiving. I do not know how to reconcile the strange and yet wonderful oddity that is the Divine Service with the ordinary world of people who do not believe. I am certainly not saying that we must dumb down what is happening to make it sensible (can it be?) or palatable (can it be?) to those who are walking into the Divine Service for the first time. But it could be that Sunday morning has become a little too ordinary and not as other worldly and blessedly shocking as it should be if we take the Lord and His Word at face value.
Worship is strange, out of keeping with the ordinary of the world, and anything less than this Godly oddity is unfaithful to the Lord and His Word. Maybe if we thought about it, we would learn to be moved by what God is doing toward the reverent awe that is quick to bow the head in silence and slower to treat the mystery of it all with unfaithful casualness. Holy ground requires something more than being comfortable. If the stranger gets this right away, why does it take us so long to acknowledge that what happens in the Divine Service is so thoroughly out of keeping with the ordinary of a world made by Him but which rejects Him as a stranger!