Recently I saw this post on facebook that was bemoaning/making fun of a whole host of what one might call “worship styles” that (according to this post) represent a consumerist style of approaching church. There was something for everyone–Gregorian chant to hip-hop worship.
I don’t know what to do with this kind of post. For those of you who might read this who are churchy-types, I understand that the liturgy works in some kind of way that we cannot understand, explain or control. But I have three issues with people bemoaning alternate styles of worship:
- It makes God too small.
- It privileges some style of worship above others, and marginalizes people in the process.
- It is not good news.
It makes God too small:
I believe the Holy Spirit also shows up in places we cannot explain, understand or control. He/She/It may show up outside of the liturgy that is somehow mandated in some place that means one way is the right way, and these other ways represent “consumerism.”
If it is true that the Holy Spirit might show up outside of liturgy as it has always been done, it seems as if we have some tools available to us to experiment with how we, out of our own context and time, might offer praise, speak, and hear good news spoken into this time and place. I assume that God speaks good news into our lives using the stuff of creation, in each time and place. That might mean some different kinds of liturgy, with different genres of music, instrumentation and words. I trust God is present in these new things.
It privileges some styles of worship above others, and marginalizes people:
We could mandate that all worship looks the same. I don’t think Martin Luther ever did that, but we can. I remember learning that he thought word and sacrament were essential, and that the rest was bonus, (I know the fancy word, I’m just not using it here). I believe Luther said if it seemed good for proclaiming gospel in that location, then it was good for worship.
One of the reasons I am uncomfortable with the conversation is because of how it seems to belittle or make fun of those who lead worship or experience worship in ways other than (whatever it is that you think is the established right way). And that “right way” is likely grounded in something European and old. The comments on the picture seem to suggest that some people believe there is one way to worship in spirit and in truth, and all these other ways just represent disunity in the body of Christ, and making God into our own image. What this does is marginalize people who don’t experience or lead worship the way it is assumed it has always been done. One could probably make an argument that if it was good enough for 500 years’ worth of people, it should be good enough for people today. You can say that, but the church is shrinking quickly so you may not be saying it to many people. More to the point, all worship came out of a culture, whether ancient Judaism or Europe 500 years ago. All worship comes from culture.
It is not Good News:
The Church should not be about marginalizing anyone, because that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is about proclaiming the gospel into people’s lives–that the grace of God is for you–whoever you are, in whatever way you can hear it, using the tools, instruments, gifts and talents of the community that is doing the hearing and proclaiming. I believe God can work with all of that. Do you?
Come, Holy Spirit.