Jun 9, 2006

liturgy and freedom of expression...

My good friend Quinn (with whom, along with his wonderful wife Shelly, Rob and I have the pleasure of hanging out tonight) posted a link to an interesting article on Liturgy yesterday. There are some good points in the article, no doubt, but I think I would have to disagree with the overall opinion behind it. The article starts with a quote from an interview with Garrison Keillor, and that's probably the part of the article that I most sympathize with. It makes reference to individuals who make a habit of saying big, showy prayers in a corporate setting. I have known such individuals and have been in such situations where this takes place, and it's one of those things that nearly makes me sick. It's exactly what Jesus warns against when He tells us not to pray as the Pharisees pray, speaking loudly on street-corners, using fancy language, all for the purpose of impressing people. This can hardly even be considered prayer; it's merely a public speech. Anyway, like I was saying, this is the part of the article that I'm totally on-board with. Keillor's preference, in consequence to this idea, is in favor of liturgy because it avoids the possibility of individuals taking pride in their own speech. Liturgical speech is not one's own words, therefore no one can boast in it. This is a great concept, and to this point, I'm still totally behind it. The writer of the article, who I believe goes by Al, continues on to divulge his personal opinion in support of this idea. First, let me say that I am not in any way against the idea of using liturgy. I think it's great, and it definitely provides things that can be lacking in non-liturgical settings. My issue with this article, however, is that Al makes it sound as though liturgy is the only appropriate form of speech to use in corporate worship settings, and that personal or inspired speech should be left out all together. This idea I cannot get behind. I completely understand the idea that when using "personal" non-liturgical speech in any public setting, there is the risk of the speaker becoming self-focused rather than focusing on the Spirit of God, but I do not believe that this presence of risk is reason enough to outlaw the use of non-liturgical speech all together. I believe there is definitely a place for liturgical speech within worship settings, but I also believe that God has created us each differently, and with different gifts. We are all members of the same body, but we are, in fact, different members (i.e. foot, hand, mouth, etc.) I believe some people are given the gift of being able to speak well, and put ideas into words so that those ideas are easily or effectively communicated to a group. If these same individuals are allowing their speech to be directed by the Spirit of God, there can be great benefit in the words they say. I believe to use solely liturgical speech would cause us to miss out on these benefits. In the article, Al makes the point that our own personal words are not adequate, and that when we use personal speech we deem our vocabulary to be sufficient. While he is right in the fact that our words are not sufficient, I don't believe you can say with any more truth that the liturgical words are sufficient. They may not be our own words, but they are still human. I don't believe there is any combination of any words in any human language that is "sufficient," regardless of who puts the words together.

I could keep going on and comment on every point the article makes, but I'll end it here. This gets the main point across. I guess ultimately what I came away with from reading and thinking about this article is the idea that Rob and I have talked a lot about in recent weeks: all of creation is broken. Nothing we do will ever fulfill the perfect worship that God deserves because we are broken by nature. Consequently, even our worship is broken. We will never get every detail exactly right. And that's okay. I think what is more important than getting all the details right is having the right heart in whatever you do. As long as your heart is desiring to please and worship God to the best of your ability in whatever you are doing, I think that's what matters. Someone whose name I can't remember (maybe a saint or someone like that) once said something to the effect of "God, I don't exactly know how to please You, but I think that my wanting to please You pleases You." That's what I think. I believe God sees through the outside stuff to our hearts and our motivating desires. So in whatever way you feel led to worship God, take inventory of what your bottom-line desire is. Are you striving to please God as best you know how, or are you trying to make yourself look good or just do what's comfortable? Whichever it is, be honest about it. God likes honesty.

No comments: