November 9, 2009
Theologically, Barth and Anselm make a good point about getting the first things we say right, because on them all the rest hangs. Prologomena, the first things to be said, make the argument before it is set forth. If the first things are said correctly, the path is laid out, and with the path laid out the destination is sure. Think of it like a GPS: it matters what coordinates you plug in at the beginning. But no matter how many turns and twists, flat tires, or fights with fellow passengers you might have along the way, you are sure of reaching a certain destination.
Recently I’ve changed the wording on my Goodson Chapel services so they begin with a ‘call to worship.’ From what I can tell that’s the appropriate title. But I really liked calling them the ‘opening sentences,’ and I might change their title again next semester.
It still makes sense to me: the processional hymn functions as a call in my mind. We don’t need to be recalled when the singing (particularly for the Methodists) has already called us. By our singing our bodies are oriented: standing, facing the cross, facing the worship leaders. We’ve already been called, we do not need a beginning to worship. We specifically need a beginning to our corporate speech to and with God. Hence, I always called them the ‘opening sentences.’ There’s a call and response phenomenon in them that fit the ‘call to worship phrase.’ But there is a subtler movement in them that lays forth how the speech of worship will proceed that morning.
The first things we do in worship matter, they chart our course. The opening sentences are to liturgy what prologomena is to theology. They are the “start address” for the google map of the worshiping body. It matters what we say first.
If it matters what we say first, all that is said along the way must also matter. You don’t plug in the address to google maps and leave the directions at home. (Well I occasionally do but that’s stupidity, coming into play not intentionality.) Worship matters: scripture attests that it’s structure and content shape and create the people of God (think the tabernacle, think Isaiah 6, think John’s Gospel). Israel isn’t biologically constituted, but liturgically constituted. Likewise, the Church is the temple not raise with hands, but constituted by raised hands: a house of prayer for all people.
Worship matters, it’s time to take it seriously.