I live in a community that loves to protest! Our liturgical sensibilities happen to appeal to the rebellious nature of our community. We have not shaped it to do so, but it has been shaped through the generations to function in such a way. This is the heart of what God does in the Sabbath, to slow us, and refuse to let a persons worth be determined by what they produce—all contradictory to the world in which we live. Our culture driven way of life leaves us longing for rest, and our worship should challenge this. I often say to those who worship with us that their presence in worship is saying to the world:
• You don’t dictate my schedule.
• You don’t determine the pace by which I live my life.
• I am not defined by what I produce.
Instead through liturgy and the sacraments, our disordered lives are reordered by God. The prayers, scripture, postures, pace and the Eucharist, all serve to shape the worshipper. We set ourselves, our time and our space, apart from the world we depart at the front doors of the church. Worshippers enter a sanctuary, retreating from the world to experience rest in Christ, through the Spirit. Over stimulation from technology, music, and the various elements of so many churches today can rob the worshiper of the rest we find in Christ, and our experience in a sanctuary—and can offer little contradiction to the world we live in.
I love the concept of gargoyles. I realize this is a rather random and strange thing to say. Gargoyles played a practical role, diverting rain water away from the beautiful cathedrals, thus preserving the stone. However, the creepy little statues also served to remind worshippers of the vulnerabilities found in the world, and the safety found within the sanctuary—and ultimately in the Church itself. For some this is seen as manipulation, for others it is a visual reminder of what one should find within the walls, and more importantly, within the life of Christ’s Church. It’s true, when life gets difficult, the week is long—there’s no place I want to be than in the church and with the church. And the challenge we receive in our liturgies is welcomed.
We, the Church, should consider how and what our worship time and space communicates, and specifically how they contrasts the world in which we live. Instead of imitating the world, perhaps we should employ what has been passed to us, a way of worship that offers an alternative to the fast paced, production oriented life we are often immersed in. Liturgical worship should be a refreshing contrast to the way of the world. This should be seen as an asset, not a hindrance to drawing people into the life of the church.