Monday, October 09, 2006

Random Monday Thoughts on Worship and Eucharist

Greetings. I just noticed that no one has made a post here in a while, so I thought I'd see if I could get things going again. I have nothing profound to offer today, but perhaps some foundational stuff is worth reviewing from time to time, eh? First, I've been going through Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" with my folks in our Wedesday night study time and finally came to the chapter on worship. One of the discussion questions we came to was "How important do you think forms and rituals are in the practice of worship?” It was interesting, although I guess I should have anticipated it, that my very traditional Nazarene crowd really had no answer to this question. They had never considered forms or rituals as having any value in a discussion on worship. So, I went back in history a bit and we had a wonderful discussion about many issues that pertain to both ritual and form and the part they play in worship. We talked about the shape of worship in the early Church, about the Word and Table form that was predominant for centuries. We talked about the differences between “forms” in worship and “styles”, and how style has won the day in our “worship wars” of the last 10 years. We talked about our revivalistic heritage and actually wrote out, on our white board, the “forms” of worship in a typical revival service. At that point, my basic question to them, having written out a basic revival service side by side with a traditional, historical worship service, said “What’s the difference?” One of our younger ladies, who isn’t even Nazarene (maybe that’s why she knew the answer) said “One is intended to make converts and the other is intended to shape disciples.” HMMMMM. You are correct madam! Then I asked, “Now, let’s take a look at our question for tonight one more time.” Looking at it from this perspective, the question about the importance of forms and rituals in worship took on a whole new luster. People who had grown up in the revivalistic services of the Church of the Nazarene all of a sudden were coming to grips with why Christian maturity is such an issue in our Church, and how a difference shape and form of worship could be helpful in developing that, even VITAL in its development. John Wesley would have been so proud! What do you all think? How would you answer the question “How important do you think forms and rituals are in the practice of worship?”
My second random thought of the day comes out of the beginnings of my preparation for my sermon this coming Sunday. I am finishing up a series on the letters to the seven Churches in Revelation this week, so I have arrived at Laodicea. Most of us have heard sermons about how we ought to be more hot (passionate, emotional) and less luke-warm (rational, intellectual, sacramental?) in our Christian lives, but have we ever heard a sermon that deals with where that image comes from or how it ties in to the other key image in the letter to Laodicea? How many of us have seen evangelistic tools using the picture of Jesus standing at the door and knocking and have been encouraged to use it as a visual aid in talking to our unsaved friends? Very quick summary of this passage reveals to us that the reference to the “lukewarm” nature of the congregation is a reference that they would immediately have understood. They would have known that John was referring to their water-source issues, that the ultimate point was that they were to far from the source of spiritual strength, stability and passion (Jesus) and the second image (Jesus standing at the door) would have been MOST important to them given this first image and its obvious implication. So, the interesting thing about Revelation 3:20 is that it is talking to CHRISTIANS primarily. Also worth noting, especially for this particular blog, is that Oscar Cullmann, in his article “The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in Primitive Christianity” in Essays on the Lord’s Supper, points to Revelation 3:20 as a nod to the eschatological power of the Eucharist, and also points out that there is a “real presence” indicated in the Meal that seems to be missing in at least the way the Pauline tradition of eating flesh and drinking blood had been applied in the Church in later years. These are missing elements for us in the Nazarene Church, in my opinion. What kinds of images or metaphors do you find to be missing in your experience of Communion? What images or metaphors concerning the Eucharist do you find present in the Bible or in other traditions that would make the Eucharist a more powerful sign of God’s presence and grace in our congregations today?
Hope this bit of randomness proves to be useful fodder for our discussion. Peace be with you all.

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