Archive for November, 2008

Lost in Space: creating space for art and music within the context of church

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University.Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

Imagine if Handel tried to present his Messiah during mass.  Obviously his vision was too grand to be presented in Church.  He was a composer so he had an avenue for his inspiration.  And it’s a good thing he did, his composition is still touching people 266 years later.

I wonder if there are people in my church like that.  I wonder if I am one of them.  Maybe there are people in your Church like that, and maybe it’s you.  Is there a place and time that people like that can be creative and present their art and music to the Church?

In my worship team I have a 14 year old guitar player.  He’s extremely talented and loves Stryper .  He draws much of his musical inspiration from them.  However many of the songs we play don’t allow for him to express his musical talent the way he really wants too.  He always has a good attitude and keeps his playing down, but when he gets a chance he really takes it.

What if people like him were given a time and space, outside of the regular worship setting, yet still within the context of worship and Church, to present their offering, their hard work and talent before both God and the rest of us?

Traditionally we’ve held contadas, and pageants, and plays, so why not modern concerts, or art exhibitions?  This type of event would provide a great place and time for an artist or musician to express their creativity in ways far beyond a traditional worship setting.

This would give the artist freedom to experiment and develop their art in ways that are perhaps complex and inaccessible to some people.  Perhaps it would draw a completely different type of crowd.  It might draw some of the cool hipsters from the local community college or university, people that don’t normally go to Church

In my mind I imagine if a band like Mogwai were a Christian band, and what would they play for such an event?  The music would probably be much the same, maybe there would be a program handed out to everyone describing what is going on in each song, that this song was taken from this scripture, or this song is about this theme, etc, etc.  Just like a classical concert.

One of my favorite bands, British Sea Power, have written their own soundtrack to the old black and white movie Man Of Aran .  And it is both moving and compelling, if not tinted with sadness.

What if bands like these were given access to the Church.  I would love to do is to let our Church double as an all age music venue for both local and touring bands.  Sure this would produce more problems to deal with, but it would allow people who don’t normally go to Church to at least step inside one, and perhaps God will grip their hearts.

Lets find out if there are any great, moving, and compelling, artist or musicians among us by giving them an opportunity to express themselves.


facits of the Eucharist

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University.Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

The Cross has been said to be the multi-faceted jewel that remains at the crux of all of Christan faith.  And in ignoring or over emphasizing even just one of these facets brings with it imbalance in our spiritual life and our community.  Likewise the Eucharist is a multifaceted jewel, and like the facets of the Cross, this jewel is best understood by examining the different aspects and perspectives that it emphasizes.

The Eucharist, ideally, should resonate with most (if not all) of specific instances it is used in the New Testament.  Dan Wilt puts it this way:

  1. Commemorates that God has acted as Savior to penetrate all of human history, from creation, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, through our present, and to the final consummation (Acts 2:46-47).

  2. Reminds us that we are part of the Communion of saints in the family of God (1 Cor 10:16)

  3. Persuades us that a sacrifice has occurred to right the world (John 1:29)

  4. Speaks of the presence of Christ among us (John 6:51-58)

  5. Welcomes us to experience the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13)

  6. Looks forward to the eschaton (1 Cor 11:26) (1)

Obviously we dont have a full understanding of everything the Last Supper entails and the full meaning.  It is by applying and utilizing these various ideas put forth in scripture about the Eucharist that can help to bring people along in maturity and to get busy “doing the stuff”.

When I first came across this list of scripture references of the Eucharist I was a bit taken back.  In my experience with Communion there has been an emphasis on roughly half of what this list speaks of.  It is no wonder often I have had trouble focusing on the one or two aspects of it that were being stressed.

By seeing the ordinance of Communion as part of our worship we are free to experience Christ among us, just as when we sing worship and praises.  Also as worship we focus on the Holy Spirit and experience his power and love.

There is also an eschatological dimension which, although expressed in the last scripture, permeates and penetrates all the others.  It is this awareness of the ‘already, but not yet’ of the Kingdom of God that explains to us how a holy God can take a part in our unholy lives.  Somehow we are made holy in the present, even though we still continue to sin.

All in all, it is by embracing the multi-faceted jewel of the Eucharist that we can best appreciate it’s beauty.  What would a jewel be without its facets?  When light passes through it is refracted it breaks up into a spectral display of color and beauty.  In the same way we can see different aspects of Gods attributes and worship him appropriately through the Eucharist.

a pilgrims regress

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University.Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

What is it that makes a person a Christian? Merriam-Webster defines it as:  1 a: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ b (1): disciple 2 (2): a member of one of the Churches of Christ separating from the Disciples of Christ in 1906 (3): a member of the Christian denomination having part in the union of the United Church of Christ concluded in 1961  2: the hero in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

Although I do love Pilgrims Progress, I want to focus on the first definition of the word, one who professes belief in the teaching of Jesus Christ.  The teaching of Jesus are found in the New Testament, and has roots and is based on the Old Testament.  Everything we know about Jesus we know from the Bible.  There are very few references to Jesus outside of scripture historically, enough to know he existed, but not enough to build a theology.

In other words without scripture we wouldn’t know what it was to be a Christian.  Our faith would probably look a lot like the other great religions of the world, and we wouldn’t have the diverse unity that we have today.  Without the Bible everything would be different.

I don’t want to say that the teaching of the word is the most important thing in our faith.  There are many equally important things that need to be stressed as well at theology, such as worship, prayer, Eucharist.  The teaching and the ensuing theology are very vital and everything else hinges on that.  Without theology we wouldn’t have worship, prayer, or Eucharist.

I know there are myriad ways of teaching the word.  One way is to preach through the entire Bible in a three year span.  Another more ancient way called the Christian Year, focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus, and incorporates much of scripture and covers the “bigger story”, the grand narrative, of the Bible.

One of my favorite preachers, Mark Driscoll, spends months and months going through the Bible book by book.  He did a sermon series on Genesis that took 9 months to complete.  All in all, he says it’ll take him around 33 years to go through the entire Bible.

As a kid, I grew up in an Assemblies of God Church.  It really was a great Church and the people loved God and loved people.  It was a little less restrictive in the preaching and teaching.  A lot of times there were no series, the pastor would pray each week and God would lay a certain subject or scripture passage on his heart.  The result a sense that God still speaks to each of us today, and that God can and does use anyone.  He can give you a message as well.

I’m sure there are many more ways to preach and teach God’s word.  Each has strengths and weaknesses, but ideally there should be a place to take the best of ideas and incorporate them into something new and fresh.
Growing up in a more of a charismatic or evangelical church atmosphere, I’m more inclined to learn more about the past, to take a road I’ve never been down.  In my past church traditions it seems that we broke from the past in regard to tradition and liturgy.  And as I learn more about the past, the more I’m intrigued and attracted to the ancient roots.  But not to go back, to be propelled into the future.
Robert Webber writes in his book Ancient-Future Time:  “the road to the future runs through the past.”  We are not “enslaved to history”, as Ben Weasel mistakenly puts it in his song The Science of Myth (although I can see how it might seem that way).  But the idea is to examine where we’ve been, and take a look at culture today, and with the Holy Spirits leading, and use what ever we need to in order to move forward with the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.
Personally I like the idea of the Christian Year.  Since I’m not a pastor, but a worship leader, and I do have a home group, so I think we’re going to look into that and see how it goes.  I look forward to it.

Spaces of Worship

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

When I think of worship I think of anything but a place.  I think of songs, music, a lifestyle devoted to God, acts of compassion and mercy, but I do not think of a place.  I think of a personal experiential act given to God.  However worship throughout history has been associated with time and space, and with community.  In the Old Testament, worship was associated with the Tabernacle and later on the Temple.  The feasts that the Jews celebrated were very time and community oriented.

As the Early Church evolved they maintained this attitude of time and space, and community.  The celebration of the birth of Christ, the death and resurrection, and later on other events were developed in order to commemorate the life, work and the return of Jesus.    Advent, Holy Week, The Great Triduum, Epiphany, and Pentecost, were some of these that were developed in order to celebrate Jesus within community.

It is this corporate nature of worship and response to the “divine call” that God loves, inhabits, and is enthroned by. This corporate nature lends strength and power to each other and to a lost and dying world.  It is in our love for each other that the Holy Spirit dwells and brings life, destroying darkness.

Our community is relegated to time and space.  Without time and space everything would be random and by accident.  We know that our worship event is at a certain place and a certain time, so we go there and it happens when we are together at the same place at the same time.

However, it is much more than that.  The place of worship in and of itself says nothing.  It is purely a material location, and a person of pure reason and logic would not be affected by any location, type of architecture, decor, etc.

But we are emotional creatures as well.  And emotion is part of our worship.  Our architecture speaks volumes of our philosophy and theology.

For example, to me the great cathedrals and chapels built by the Catholic Church and similar traditions speak of permanence.  They are usually well constructed, built to last a thousand years (if not more).  They take pride in architecture and design, often with some theological concept in mind as they build.  This to me, speaks of the permanence of the Gospel, of Jesus, and the mission of the Church.   The Church is here to stay, “we’ve been here a long time and we aren’t going anywhere soon”.

On the opposite side are the many Church’s of the Evangelical tradition.  Often built out of metal buildings with a brick facade, built fast and cheap when compared to the Catholics buildings.  This, to me, reflects a theology that says we are pilgrims in this world.  We are just passing through, we are here for only a short while, and like grass we are gone tomorrow.  It is one of mortality and temporal existence.

Growing up in a more of an Evangelical tradition I tend to long for the permanence of the great stone churches built by past traditions.  On one hand I live the emphasis on singing and praising together that evangelical, especially the charismatic/pentecostal, traditions have.  On the other hand, I love the other traditions that speak of permanence, as well as thousands of years of history.