Archive - Nov 2018

Date
  • All
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30

November 4th

An Easy People's Liturgy

We sat around the table and drank a bottle of wine…

We were listening to “Easy People” by The Neilds, but we weren’t actually drinking a bottle of wine. We were playing YouTube Riff Off. My youngest daughter was home from college with a friend and we were playing songs off our cellphones, mostly from YouTube. A person would play a song, and then the next person would play some song that they associated with the previous song, riffing off the previous song.

Perhaps I’ve been too engrossed in my studies, but I looked at us around the table and thought about what I’m reading for Postmodern Christian Education in seminary. Juan M. C. Oliver in Worship-Shaped Life writes,

I cannot overemphasize how dangerous is the failure to incarnate our worship in the local time, place, and culture.

(Oliver, 13)

The YouTube Riff Off felt more incarnated in our local time, place, and culture than many church services I attend. I wondered, how do we make liturgy more like a YouTube Riff Off?

When ritual isn’t tied to local time, place, and culture, it can become highly problematic. Oliver talks about the relationship between ritual and colonialism. It became very easy for Anglicans in British colonies to confuse rituals of the Reign of God with rituals of the British Empire.

I love the rituals of liturgy, and yet Oliver’s warning rang true. How much do we love rituals because they are different, and take us out of our daily lives, and how much do we love rituals because they connect us with something greater? It seems like a good liturgy should do both. However, at times I’ve participated in liturgies that have done neither.

Put another way, liturgy should be about meaning-making, and “meaning-making takes community” (Oliver 19). There was a lot of meaning shared in the songs around the dinner table. Heartbreak, longing, hope.

Haven't I paid my dues by now, don't I get the right to choose?
And I choose you to take up all of my time
I choose you because you're funny and kind
I want easy people from now on

As we played our music, I thought back to times when I had first heard the songs; times with friends in college, times with my children when they were little. There is something very liturgical there. Some of the church services that I find most moving are those that connect me to saints throughout the ages. Oliver talks about the importance of things “older and greater than us, and outlasting us.” (Oliver 11) Thursday was All Saints day, so I feel particularly focused on the great cloud of witnesses of the Christian faith over the centuries right now. I think about this during various church services. Am I getting a sense of a timeless tradition being incarnate in my local time, space, and culture? I love it when I do get that sense, praying in an old monastery with walls soaked in prayers of generations of monks, praying in a church using language, images, sounds, and smells that have accompanied the saints for ages.

So now, as Oliver suggests, I am reflecting on last night’s secular ritual of YouTube Riff Off as I prepare for todays ritual of Eucharist. (Oliver, 20). May the timeless be as locally and culturally incarnate in todays worship as it was in last night’s gathering.