To quickly recap before we round up this series of articles: we are primarily loving/desiring things, not thinking things. Our desires are created and shaped by our practices and rituals. Those rituals which touch us nearest to our core move our ultimate love and is therefore just another way of saying that it teaches us what to worship. Worship means ultimate love. So, those practices which touch us most deeply can rightly be termed liturgies. While involving ourselves in certain secular liturgies (e.g. going to the mall, the stadium, the university, etc.) our loves are being deformed. They are being created in the world’s image, not the image of God. As a result we need a practice which will act as a counterformation to these secular liturgies. A Christian naturally looks to Christian worship to be this practice. Sadly, however, even much “Christian” worship turns out to be “Jesusfied” versions of secular liturgies. The practices themselves have stories built-in to them. So whenever our worship looks like the coffee shop or the mall we still learn that Story even if the Story of Jesus is preached. We learn to be consumers or customers instead of servants and worshippers of the true God. In light of all of this we ask, “What would worship look like if it accurately embodied the True Story of the World?”1
Before entering the church building we are already being prepared for a practice which is counterformative. The banners and signs and colors announce the Christian season within the liturgical calendar (Violet for Advent and Lent, White for Christmas and Easter, Red for Good Friday etc.). The Christian’s year is, quite literally, determined by the life of Christ (each season corresponds to the events of the life of Jesus) instead of the secular calendar. Experiencing time within the worship of the church is different than it is experienced outside of it. The church creates a different world in which we live, move, and have our being. This sense of time is intentionally counter cultural. The practice of keeping time differently embeds in the Christian a sense of living differently than the world while remaining in it.
Apart from the Christian seasons there is the simple fact that we gather on Sunday. For the rest of the world Sunday is a day to sleep in and recover from the shenanigans of the past two days and to prepare for returning to work on Monday. For Christians, however, Sunday is at once the climax of the week and the beginning of another. We wake while much of the world sleeps and we gather together. Why? Because God has called us into his presence. Not only does our simple gathering reflect this calling there ought to be an active recognition of this fact. Beginning worship with “Good morning” or “We’re glad you’re here”, as often happens, subtly suggests that we are the ones who have called this assembly. Likewise, beginning with the announcements suggests that we are here to “do business” rather than to enter the presence of the living God. A way of recognizing God’s call is to offer it. The worship leader, as God’s servant, welcomes others with “The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Or perhaps he opens the service by saying “The Lord be with you all” with the congregational response, “And with you.” This response teaches us that all of life is in response to our God. The creation began as a response to God’s divine fiat and it continues that way today (Gen. 1; Heb. 1:3). Life itself is a response to God’s will (Acts 17:24, 25). And even though we have largely lost our sense of “calling” we still regularly describe our jobs as our “vocation” (from the Latin vocare, “to call”).3 Issuing the Call of God to enter into his presence offers the Christian the opportunity to reorient himself. In a world whose mantra is “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”4, this response to God’s call trains us to constantly recognize God’s authority as our Lord and our response-ability to him. This practice is, therefore, intentionally counter cultural.
Thomas Cranmer in his monumental and seminal liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer, begins with the reading of certain passages which call attention to our sinfulness in order to lead one to the confession which follows. E.g. “When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive” (Eze. 18:27); “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).5 A reading of the Law (and certain sections of the epistles) would also be suitable here. In a world which aggressively fights against the idea of an absolute Truth, a transcendent rule of ethics, the reading of God’s Law reminds us that there are universal norms. There is a way that the world ought to be, and by this reading we are invited to join in embodying that vision of shalom (i.e. peace and wholeness). This also reminds us of our creatureliness. We are not our own masters. Rather, we come as a community gathered together in service of the same Master. The Creator of the universe revealed his will on Sinai. At once the reading of the Law calls us to obey it and it condemns us for having broken it, which leads to the next movement.
Confession and Absolution
Cranmer rightly sees the reading of scripture as call which evokes a response.
“Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of the Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy.”6
The response is bilateral: We confess our failures while recommitting ourselves to obedience. The prayer which embodies this two-fold response is reproduced here:
“Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders; Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent, According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord: And grant, O merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.”7
This communal confession carries the most weight when we remember it within its context. First, God’s mission is not to save us from the world but rather to redeem the world. In this light the Law is not simply a test which God gives in order to determine whether he lets us into heaven when we die. The Law embodies a vision for the world. It is a societal vision and we have a part to play. This vision is a vision of True Humanity, humanity the way it was meant to be. Therefore, breaking the Law is not just failing a test. It is a failure to be fully human. Second, this confession takes place within worship. This is the place where we rehearse the True Story of the World, the way things are supposed to be. This means that we are not only concerned with confession of wrongs but we are also concerned with righting of wrongs. This means that we recommit ourselves to the fulfillment of God’s vision for the kingdom. It also means that we seek absolution; we seek forgiveness. We confess our wrong and want to be put right. Again, Cranmer sees this clearly. A pronouncement of forgiveness follows the confession of sin and commitment to righteousness.
“Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather than he may turn from his wickedness and live; and hath given power and commandment to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins: He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel. Wherefore, let us beseech him to grant us to repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. The people shall answer here, and at the end of all other prayers, Amen.”8
This movement is about things being put right. This is about that which has been divided being reconciled again, and reconciliation is always two sided. That is why the pronouncement of forgiveness is necessary. When we confess our sins to God he is not silent. He responds with mercy and compassion. This movement in the liturgy embodies that. It also teaches us what God’s kingdom is supposed to look like. This is the place where hurts are healed, brokenness is mended, the estranged are reconciled, and division is conquered by love. By this practice we are learning to long for justice; we learn to long for the world to be put right. And by confessing our own sins we learn that injustice is not just “out there.” Sin runs right through all of us. If the world is to be put right it must begin with us. Longing for the reconciliation of the world means longing for my own reconciliation with God.
Passing the Peace
This movement quite naturally follows our reconciliation to God. This is so because reconciliation is always vertical and horizontal. One cannot exist without the other. I cannot be right with God if I am not right with my brother. I also cannot be right with my brother if I am not right with God because it is God which puts me right and enables me to love my brother as he deserves. Having now been put right with God, the community which was likely fractured throughout the week (perhaps in slight ways beyond our recognition) is not made whole again. This is embodied by the passing of the peace. Neighbors turn to one another and share an appropriate sign of good-well. They kiss, they hug, they shake hands, and even offer the manual “Peace” sign from a distance. Accompanying this is the blessing “Peace be with you” which is answered with “And with you.” Having confessed to God the sins which fractured shalom we now embody its restoration and reality. And it is a peace shared across every boundary. We greet young and old, man and woman, the CEO and the garbage man, the red, and yellow, black, and white. This is God’s multi-ethnic multi-cultural kingdom just as he would have it. Here we learn to live out shalom, God’s very own vision for the world.
The book of Isaiah offers many pictures of New Creation, some of which are followed by a hymn of praise to the God who has finally put the world right. E.g. “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth” (Isa. 12:5). “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones” (49:13). It is, therefore, appropriate for us to praise him for his act of New Creation in our midst.9
Our songs are perhaps one of the most important parts of our worship, partly because they are the most easily distorted. Songs “get in our bones.” We may hear a song we haven’t heard in 10 years and still sing the words with immense accuracy. This makes them especially powerful and especially dangerous. There are a great many errors that we sing on a regular basis.10 And by repetition the bad theology may work its way into our hearts. Most of us will not remember the sermons that we have heard but we will forever remember the hymns. Songs, therefore, are some of the most important vehicles for theology. The Catholic Church is supposed to have said of Martin Luther, “He has done us more harm by his songs than his sermons.” This is because they are powerful and memorable. Singing is the language of the kingdom. We must be careful we are learning the right language and speaking with the appropriate accent.
Singing songs is also one of the most holistic/embodied worship acts we perform. We often stand, we hear the melody, we match our own voices to the harmony, the music moves our “gut” and grabs our emotions; we smile, we shout, we laugh, we cry, we mourn. It is, therefore, also one of the most transcendent acts that we perform. We “get lost” in the music. This world is a world within a world. We have stepped into a place where things are different than they are “out there.” The goal, however, is always to take some of this music with us when we leave. The dissonant sounds of heartbreak may be cheered by our echoes of heaven. And worship is where we learn the Song.
Prayer is a time where much discipleship takes place. Even in “non-liturgical” traditions, like my own, our liturgy appears most in our prayers. Certain stock/ritual phrases appear again and again, passed down from generation to generation, whose origin is now forgotten. “Guide, guard, and direct us.” “Bring us back at the next appointed time.” “Help us to partake of this in a manner well pleasing in thy sight.” Although prayers, like our songs, may take many forms (praise, lament, petition, intercession) we’ll examine just briefly The Lord’s Prayer which will be heard in most Christian churches throughout the world.
The very first word of the prayer, “Our”, reminds us that we live within community. My life is not just about God and me, my personal salvation, and whether or not I go to heaven when I die. My life is lived within community and therefore I pray within community. I recognize my shared relationship with others by recognizing our mutual relationship with God. “Our Father”, not “My Father.”
Next we recognize God’s uniqueness. “Hallowed be thy name.” Being holy/hallowed indicates being set apart, “in a class of his own.” This emodies the wish that all of our idols would be overthrown. This God is nothing like the pantheon of gods we serve day to day. This prayer, like the entire liturgy, is a rebellion against the idolatry which lobbies for our love throughout the week.
At the center of the prayer lies the point of the entire Story, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is no escapist prayer which wishes to pass a test in order to leave earth behind. Each time we pray the prayer we are situated within the larger Story of New Creation where God’s glory floods the earth “as the water covers the sea” (Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14). We are reminded of our part in bringing that into reality.
Following that we are immediately reminded that this kingdom is not divided ontologically. It is not a kingdom which separates the physical and the spiritual. The requests for bread and forgiveness come back to back. “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins.” Both are necessary in this kingdom.
This kingdom is not divided socially. It is no Us-Against-Them sort of kingdom. We are not The Righteous Few going to conquer The Wicked Other. The very thing that God intends to overthrow in the world must also be overthrown in us. We pray, “Forgive us our sins.” Yes, we have our sins too. We must be willing to be reconciled to God as well as to other people. And so we pray, “As we forgive those who sin against us.” God’s Story is about reconciliation: the reconciliation of Heaven and Earth, Spiritual and Physical, Jew and Gentile, Men and Women, Citizen and Non-Citizen, Greeks and Barbarians, Us and Them. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is heaven that means the reconciliation of everything. All that divides the world must be overcome and the peace of God must reign.
This prayer also teaches us that there is real messy world all around us. While we come together on Sundays to tell The True Story of the World, to remind ourselves of how the world should be, and to practice being citizens of that kingdom, this is not nieve make-believe. We never let ourselves forget that the vision of God’s future is, in some sense, still future. When we leave the confines of the sanctuary there will be more battles to fight, and we dare not trust our own strength. So we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but delver us for evil.” But the good news of it all is that although there are still battles to be fought the outcome of the war has already been decided. And so we pray, “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Yes, there are still battles to fight. But the kingdom belongs to God and one day we will see that kingdom come fully. So this prayer situates us within the Story, and while it is realistic about the present it remains confident about the future.
Worship ought to be a Story filled experience. Too often our scripture reading is short and singular. It would be beneficial, I believe, to have a number of scripture readings and longer readings. This way we are able to feel the grand sweep of the Story instead of just being fed little bits. Within those readings there ought to be something in regard to the life of Jesus (whether from the Old Testament, the Gospels, or the Epistles). Jesus is the center of our worship, the climax of history, the Lord of the world, and Good News for all creation. He is the one that has made worship, as it is, possible. His life, death, and resurrection are what brought New Creation to birth. He changed the Time which governs the church. He issues the call which gathers us together. He fulfilled the Law that we have broken and he extends forgiveness to its transgressors. He created the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community of shalom that we have prayed about, sang about, longed for, and enjoyed. There is a very real way in which Jesus re-narrates the entire world. He is the Logos (Jn. 1:1), the True Story of the World. Christian worship without Jesus is a Story without a meaning.
Having just heard the Story of our Lord we know affirm our commitment to him. Although the recitation of The Apostle’s Creed is not common in all traditions I feel safe in saying it is more common than not.11 This is yet another moment which recognizes our unity in Christ. We are a people bound together by belief/trust in Christ and that is never more explicit than it is here (except possibly in the Supper). This is like our Constitution or Pledge of Allegiance, and we pledge allegiance to Jesus, not to the State, the Union, the Emperor, President, or Prime Minister.12 This, again, is a counter-cultural practice. While others consider their highest allegiance to “King and Country”, ours is higher still. This practice instills in us the importance of “obeying God rather than Man” (Acts 5:29).
Recitation of the Creed is also counter-cultural because it connects us to an ancient tradition. It rebels against the chronological snobbery which says, “New is always better.” “Advances” in science do not mean that we have advanced beyond the need for religion. That will never happen. We unabashedly commit ourselves to a tradition which is 2,000 years old. We are unashamed of that which others label as superstition. We confess with one voice our belief in God as Creator, Jesus as virgin born and resurrected. We confess our belief in the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the body, and the life ever lasting. This is not superstition to us. This is a commitment to living a different sort of life, a life enchanted with the life of God himself.
Once we have committed ourselves to our Lord we receive our marching orders. While we have already had a number of readings from scripture there is a place also for commentary. This is where the Story of the World is extended and expounded. If we have made the mistake of hearing the Law and the Gospel as dry and dusty documents the sermon will not allow us to do so any longer. The sermon renarrates the world and reminds us that the Story is still being written. The sermon tells each one “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”13 The play has gone through its previous acts, climaxing in the Fourth Act with the Christ Event. We now live in the Fifth Act improvising our way to the end which has already been settled and revealed. We know where we are going, but there is still work to do.14 The sermon becomes for us something like stage directions. We are bound by certain facts. We cannot act in discontinuity with the previous acts and we cannot change the ending. But exactly what it looks like between here and there is always changing because history is always changing. Early Christians did not have to face questions of internet pornography, nuclear war, stem-cell research, or the separation of church and state. So we are guided along within the confines of the authoritative text. We are a troupe of actors gathered together on the stage of history to try and tease out what the next scene should look like. This too is counter-cultural because the Play we’re rehearsing is different altogether from the rest of the world. They are working towards an ending which will never arrive. Out there we will look as if we are the ones who are on the wrong stage, but that cannot be helped. We know the Writer and Director. He has assured us that we are where we are supposed to be. And he looks forward to seeing his troupe bring his Masterpiece to life! And so we shall.
There is much to say about the Eucharist in an already long article so brevity will have to suffice. First, the Supper is itself an abolition of the social stratification that takes place “outside.” In a world where most in the West enjoy feasts and those in the rest of the world suffer famine we gather around a table where everyone takes an equal share. There are not Haves and Have-Nots here. We enter into a vision of the world where everyone has enough.
Second, it sanctifies the common. The Meal is common bread and wine, and yet it is where we meet the God of bread and wine. There is no secular/sacred divide here. The Meal that Jesus gave us is a rebellion against the disenchantment of our secular world.
Third, the Meal collapses Time into itself. It connects us to the past. We eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Jesus broken body and shed blood (cf. Mat. 26; 1 Cor. 11). It also reminds us that the Story is still being written. This is not a ritual relegated to by gone ages. We still gather around the table today. We still need forgiveness. We still need bread and wine, body and blood. And we also look forward to the future. It anticipates Jesus final coming (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26) as well as the Messianic Banquet at which death itself will be swallowed up (cf. Isa. 25:1-10). In this way it is a kind of celebration. We enjoy the future victory now. In a world so full of death and tears we may sometimes forget how to laugh. But we have rehearsed the Story and we know the end. We have stepped into a different world where forgiveness is the rule, where God’s peace reigns, because Jesus has fulfilled the Law, conquered sin and the grave, and we have heard the announcement of the Gospel. We have committed ourselves to following the victorious King and now we celebrate our independence! We feast and enjoy the spoils of our King’s war with Death. This is the Meal that makes every funeral bearable. We are emboldened against Death itself because we have learned to anticipate its full and final defeat. The Supper is not just a memorial, it’s a party. And all weary travelers are welcome.
We cannot celebrate the defeat of Death while simultaneously colluding with its power. This next act, the offering, is a further rebellion against a culture which stinks of Death because it is so often in his company. In a world where the top 1% now owns half of the world’s wealth, sharing is defiance.15 The only way the rich stay rich is by keeping the poor poor. This culture contributes to the deaths of many. And so week after week we learn that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We have seen a vision of God’s kingdom where Death is overthrown, none go hungry, all are clothed, and all have places to sleep. We’ve captured a glimpse of that vision and that vision has captured us, so we live into it right now. We give to support those whose struggle with Death is more fierce than our own. This is insurrection. We will not allow Death to overcome. So we give. And by giving we give life.
Rehearsal is, by definition, not the show. All practice is preparation. We have rehearsed the True Story of the World and practiced its virtues. But the show is intended to be seen. Virtue is for the sake of The Other. We leave the confines of our gathering to step out onto the stage of history. But we do not merely leave. We are sent. This is not just worship, it is a Mass.16 We are sent with the power and blessing of God himself. The minister, as God’s representative, commends us to God’s care. “The Lord bless you and keep you” (Num. 6:24-26).
We have come a long way in this series. We discovered that we are primarily embodied creatures, not brains-on-a-stick. This means that we are not lead primarily by our thoughts/beliefs but by our loves/desires. We also learned that we are teleological creatures. Our loves are “aimed” at a particular vision of The Good Life, and because those visions are always social they can rightly be termed “kingdoms”. We then investigated two texts which offer us visions of God’s Kingdom. We looked at the commission given to Man in Genesis 1-2 and what that commission would look like fulfilled as pictured in Revelation 21, 22. The conclusion was that we are not made to evacuate earth and live in a disembodied heaven. Rather, we are intended to rule over God’s creation by being instruments of his goodness, compassion, love, mercy, justice, and creativity. We are to create cultures–to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The question we were left with was, “How does God work in us to develop those virtues which are necessary to fulfilling our vocation?” The answer, we have seen, is worship. Our habits are built by our rituals and when those rituals touch us nearest to our center they teach us what is most important. They teach us what to love ultimately, and because what we love above all else is the thing that we worship then our rituals teach us what to worship. While the rituals of the world are deforming us, the worship of the God of heaven is supposed to work as a counterformation against the secular habituation. The difficulty is that many Christian worship services have adopted the same rituals which deform our loves. We were lead to question what a Christian worship service would look like if it rightly embodied the True Story of the World. We asked what rituals would “aim” our hearts towards God’s kingdom. And here we are. The liturgy above (imperfect I’m sure) is one which removes the secular/sacred divide. By being an active and embodied liturgy our bodies are embraced, not shunned. We are not taught to overcome or suppress our bodies’ loves; Rather, we are taught to aim our bodies’ loves in the right direction. We have learned about forgiveness and reconciliation, not by word only but by action. We have practiced forgiveness. We have learned that there are standards of right and wrong through the reading of the Law. We have learned about Christ’s redemption of creation through the reading of the Gospel. We have placed our stamp of approval upon cultural work by singing the songs that are themselves products or poets. We have learned to see the holy in the mundane by meeting Jesus in common bread and wine. We have learned that sharing, not upward mobility, is the virtue of the kingdom. We have been sent into the world to carry this vision to others. We are practicing for the kingdom. This alone is what it means to be simply human. So join me in being human. Because you were born to.
©M. Benfield 2016
1. A caveat is necessary at this point. I do not pretend to know what a “perfect” liturgy would look like. This should not deter us, however, from attempting to embody the True Story of the World as best we can. So two things ought to be kept in mind. First, this is only a broad outline. There is still room for variation of order and “style” within the framework pictured here. Second, I recognize that not all worship services look like the one I will describe. (My own tradition is is “non-liturgical” [admittedly a misnomer; all churches have “liturgy”], which is, in my opinion, lamentable. Indeed, my analysis here could very well serve as a critique of my own tradition). To differ from the liturgy suggested here is not “wrong.” However, if I’m right about the things discussed in past articles then we have to say that form matters. Practices are not neutral. This requires that we think long and hard about the liturgies in which we submerge ourselves from week to week.↩
2. Though my liturgy is not a whole-sole transmission of Smith’s, I am largely dependent on James K.A. Smith’s analysis in Desiring the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic 2009), 155-207. I am also indebted to Constance M. Cherry and her work The Worship Architect, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010). Specifically, her description of each event in worship as having a “movement” (either in, down, up, or out) was influential to my understanding of worship and to the order of the liturgy I suggest here. ↩
3. New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).↩
4. William Ernest Henley, Invictus.↩
5. A word in defense of the archaic language used here. There has been a regular movement, even–perhaps especially–in our churches, to remove the transcendent and replace it with the mundane. The motivations behind this are legion, some being laudable and others less so. I think, however, that this loss of transcendence (what Charles Taylor calls “disenchantment”) is a vice, not a virtue. Because one goal of worship is to counter the deformation of secular society it is beneficial, I believe, for worship to have its own “ritual language.” For this reason Joseph Campbell, in his book The Power of Myth, (New York: Doubleday, 1988), lamented the ruling of Vatican II which resulted in translating the Mass from Latin to English. “There’s been a reduction in ritual. Even in the Roman Catholic Church, my God–they’ve translated the Mass out of the ritual language and into a language that has a lot of domestic associations … They’ve forgotten that the function of ritual is to pitch you out, not to wrap you back in where you have been all the time” (84). Though I do not know whether his reasons are the same as Campbell’s, J.R.R. Tolkien is also well known as having opposed this rule of Vatican II. After the decision Tolkien continued to make the responses in Latin as loudly as possible as a form of protest. The point is the one that we have repeatedly made: form matters. This includes the form of our language. Perhaps a poetic “ritual language” is not a bad thing, despite its reputation in recent years. It may be time to ask ourselves whether conducting worship in the vulgar (literally “common; ordinary”) language is really beneficial to the formation of true human beings in an increasingly secular world.↩
6. Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer, (London: Everyman’s Library, 1999), 70.↩
7. Ibid, 70, 71.↩
8. Ibid, 71. A few things need to be pointed out: The minister is not the one granting forgiveness. The “He” that pardons is the same one who has delivered “his holy Gospel”, i.e. God. The minister only serves as a representative of God. There is no power in the minister himself. He is only an instrument. Also, this pronouncement of forgiveness is not some sort of magic which effects forgiveness apart from faith. There is a recognition within the prayer that forgiveness is received where true repentance and contrition reside. The point of the action is to comfort the afflicted, not the impenitent.↩
9. The forgiveness previously pronounced is not merely the transfer of information. It actually accomplishes what it describes. In this way it is an act of creation, or New Creation to be exact. God created the world much as an artist might make a painting. Our sins, which fracture the original shalom of God’s kingdom, are acts of uncreation in the same way that chemicals in the air have eroded the colors of the Sistine Chapel. The restoration of that chapel in the 1980s, sometimes called “the restoration of the century”, was so stunning as to be nearly an act of New Creation, even causing one writer to say that “every book on Michelangelo would now have to be rewritten.” In the same way, the restoration of the shalom which we have destroyed can rightly be termed an act of New Creation. And so in our worship we enact–not just re-enact as if it were merely a rehearsal–the True Story of the World. In our worship we confess our Fall and we actually experience New Creation, the creation of God’s shalom here on earth.↩
10. E.g. Songs like I’ll Fly Away and When We All Get to Heaven suggest that the goal of history is to evacuate earth and reside in a disembodied heaven.↩
11. My own tradition has historical rejected all creeds. “No Creed but the Bible,” they say. Despite our official rejection of Creeds they still exist ipso facto and can usually be found on our church websites under the link labeled “What We Believe.” I think this rejection of Creeds is unfortunate. First, because every one has a Creed (the word Creed comes from the Latin credo which simply means “I believe,” and everyone believes something) we do not have a choice between creed and no creed, only between a good creed and a bad one. When we rejected Creeds it was not long before we replaced them. Only now the things which my tradition disliked about Creeds became all the worse because we do not label them as such. Second, this rejection of Creeds was, in effect, a rejection of tradition. By cutting ourselves off from the ancient Christian tradition we left ourselves with an impoverished knowledge of who we are and where we come from. We are left now with no central statement of belief around which to unify (which is ironic because my tradition began as a unity movement). Granted, there are some within the Churches of Christ who recite the Creed, recognize the value of tradition, and openly practice liturgy as such, but those exceptions are so rare as to be negligible.↩
12. James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 190-191.↩
13. Walt Whitman, O Me! O Life!.↩
14. N.T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God, (New York: HarperOne, 2005), 121-127.14
15. Daniel Bentley, “The Top 1% Now Owns Half the World’s Wealth”, Fortune (October 14, 2015), available from http://fortune.com/2015/10/14/1-percent-global-wealth-credit-suisse/ ; Internet; accessed December 5, 2016.↩
16. “Mass: … –ORIGIN Old English maesse, from ecclesiastical Latin missa, from Latin miss- ‘dismissed,’ from mittere, perhaps from the last words of the service, Ite, missa est ‘Go, it is the dismissal.'” New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). We come to be sent.16