December 21, 2009
And I am offended. My generation deserves better from our mentor and parent, the church. Because we know intuitively that the church has a backbone, and we wish she would show it. Her backbone is Scripture, and the nerve passing the Message to the rest of the body is the tradition, the liturgy.
This is where Christ’s unmasking of our sinfulness comes in, according to Barth. The only way to realize the all important “i” has taken over your universe is to come up against the un-movable, un-changable, and incomprehensible “Thou.” Augustine described original sin- the sin inherent to all people- as spiritual scoliosis. Sin turns us inward and downward such that we could no longer look forward to behold our natural end: God. Instead we shuffle along pondering our own toes.
How to cure the spiritual Quasimodo? Ringing the bell: calling the people to worship. To deconstruct the lie of the “me” generation- a group of people ipod, iphone, and imac obsessed demands introduction to the I AM. Teach a bent spine how to walk upright- put it in a brace. To teach a curved spirit: brace it with praise. Teach mute lips the words of scripture. Lift limp arms and tone weary hearts. Bend stiff knees, and above all: lift sore eyes.
A down pillow will not straighten a curved spine. Neither, then, will worship that merely appeases the need to feel good. I’m not saying worship shouldn’t feel good some times, it does. But learning to become God’s disciple won’t always feel ‘good.’ It won’t fit an agenda. Worship isn’t a spa.
But it is a hospital. Jesus said he came for those who needed a physician. That would be us. Jesus shows us our scolisis of the spirit and then goes a step farther. He gives us His Spirit so we can literally straighten up. Thats why two thousand years of Christians have worshiped in His Spirit and truth. For two thousand years the church has been straightening the hunched and reviving the dead.
We are, in fact, the poor in spirit… at least most of us are. In the suffrages in the Book of Common Prayer (Rites I&II for Morning and Evening Prayer), there is a beautiful petition that strikes me each morning: “Let not the needy be forgotten, O Lord, nor the hope of the poor be taken away.” As I wrestled with what is lost by changing the liturgy in order to “attract” younger worshipers this petition kept popping into my head and heart. Christ is our hope, and we can only receive Christ through the tradition of the Church, the body of Christ. If that tradition is abandoned for the sake of the chic, we have no hope.
If the church seduces the “me” generation with a mere reproduction of ourselves we will feel comfortable, but we’ll be comfortably dead. If she draws us to our own image, we will drown in ourselves like Narcissus. But if she holds out hope for is, we may learn how to hope for ourselves. And for one whose hopes in Christ, all things are possible.
“…Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Restore in us a clean heart, and sustain a right spirit within us….” Amen.