May 29, 2010
My friend Katie is a champion multi-tasker with school & news & blogs. I confess, I am not (hence, I haven’t posted in several months). She sent me this article on Cyber-Worship a few months ago, in the thick of Advent, GRE, and finals and I didn’t have a chance to actually sit down and think about it on paper until recently. The article reinforces something we all probably knew deep down… the liturgical community desperately needs to grapple with and engage the ‘online worship’ phenomenon. For the sake and love of all things apple and trendy, and for a fun play on words: let’s call it ‘iLiturgy.’
Right away, there are notable upsides to online liturgy: the biggest being that people who cannot go to church are able to participate. In this sense it functions as a tv-worship service of the same variety I used to watch every summer Sunday I spent at my Nana’s house. For some, there are physical limitations or illnesses that truly prevent their physical presence and a webcast quite frankly presences them with the community. For others though, TV or Internet worship becomes a substitute for a real, living breathing worshiping community. Rather than building a bridge to worship, it hyper-personalizes the experience and removes any responsibility to the worshiping community.
I realize that I am toeing the Duke Divinity line here, but people outside the bubble agree: you can’t participate in Christ without participating in Christ’s people. And here is the fundamental problem cyber worship must overcome. First, we need people to remove the logs from our eyes and show us our sins plain and simple. And then we need one another to lean on as we stumble toward reconciliation with Christ.
We need a living, breathing, community of screw-ball human beings to reveal all the grotesque monsters and madness we masquerade as individuality, quirks, or (worse) “necessary evils.” Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche community, writes that in community, “we realize how incapable we are of oiving, how much we deny life to others. So community life brings a painful revelation of our own limitations.” Unless we are confronted with Christ in others: unless we are reconciled to our brothers and sisters Paul would say, all of our praise songs and bread and juice mean nothing, nada, zip, zilch etc. And believe me, if you attend a church for a few weeks, you’ll probably find somebody to forgive. Attend a church for a day or two and you’ll probably need to ask forgiveness.
But finding our own sin, we learn to ask for forgiveness from one another, from Christ. And with forgiveness comes reconciliation. When we pass the peace (which ought to come after the confession), Christians make a bold declaration: all the sin in the world cannot over come Christ’s power to forgive and restore. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, In Christ you are a new creation, and remember Paul was writing to the whole church. All this hangs on participating in Christ together, at the same table, in the same pew.
Hear me now, I am not saying that invalids and the home and hospital bound cannot really worship. Chances are, if somebody puts that much energy into watching a grainy, spotty, reproduction of worship they have known the community and all its messyness and managed to learn how to love. But for the rest of us, most of us, particularly us ‘younguns’: we’d best learn how to love each other in the pews. Because heaven knows, we don’t do in the world.