Wednesday, February 13, 2008

worship wonderings

I had an interesting experience at chapel today. I have always enjoyed chapel, and I was especially excited about worship today because we've started a new series on worship and to coincide with our topic, we've begun having different types of worship services every week. This was the first week, and all of the chairs were placed in a circle with a large cross in the middle. We also read scripture together and the worship team was mixed in with us so it was more like we were "all in this together." That part of the service I enjoyed VERY much and I wish it was more like that all the time. Side note: For my senior recital, I will most certainly be asking for the stage to be lowered to floor level--I don't need to be towering over my audience! But this is a discussion for another time...

Back to chapel. So, things were great until the sermon--not that I don't love Pastor Judy, I think she's the best thing since sliced bread--but I felt a little funny about what she had to say. We read together in the Psalms the "as the deer pants for the water..." passage, and as soon as she started speaking I could tell that she was going to tell us to be grateful that we can come to worship so often, that we don't even know what's is like to hunger for God...etc. But it didn't stop there. I fully agree that we are blessed in this country in that we are free to attend whatever church, synagogue, mosque, or whatever else and worship as we choose. This is a blessing and a privelege that we enjoy. I would argue that regardless of this freedom I have indeed experienced a hunger for God that would have driven me to "drink from any ol' stream" as Judy said, but until about eight minutes in, that was the only small disagreement I had. No problem.

Then came the portion that was most disconserting to me. She was talking most specifically about different worship traditions, and how people "shop around" for a church that suits their preferences. Some disagree with this practice, but I do not--a fact which is perhaps relevant but for which I am out of space here. However, the most difficult part for me was not really any specific statement that Judy made, but a general attitude that she had toward our culture. The basic proposition was this: "We live in a society and attend a school where we are able to access worship whenever we want it. We can participate in small groups and in all kinds of service projects, attend chapel and CollegeLife, and we never go hungry or have an almost visceral desire for God. As the community of this university we can worship God wherever and whenever, but we are never fed because we are never hungry." This would not have been so upsetting had it not been for the fact that she did not provide a solution to this problem. It seemed to me that she was suggesting that we shouldn't take Bible classes or do devotions or come to chapel and CollegeLife or that we can be hungry?

I agree that we have an excess of choice. There is something a bit unnatural about our economy--the constant consumeristic wanting more--and that I don't always NEED to go to church on Sunday. Yes, we are picky about worship and we are choosy about sermon topics and tradition. I agree. There is something wrong with the way our country works. But how do we fix it?

What I do not agree with is the view that the very fact that we are able to choose what worship style we participate in is a sinful thing. She said that we are living in this sinful lifestyle of wanting specific things out of worship services. Is it sinful to have this opportunity and to take advantage of it? Or is it sinful to have the opportunity to worship God freely and NOT take advantage of it?? Are American Christians supposed to just sit by and make people be hungry for God by not planting more churches? What about those who have never been to church because it's uncomfortable and they don't like what they see when they're there? They certainly are not going to keep showing up if it doesn't suit them! Are we not supposed to have variety? God's people experience Him and experience worshiping Him in different ways.

I'm getting a little off-topic. What I'm trying to say is that I don't believe that we can condemn a "consumeristic" approach to finding a church home as sinful because it does not cause us to hunger for God. I don't believe that searching for the most comfortable church is the issue here--the issue is that many people in my society have forgotten what it is like to desire God almost viscerally, to want to be in his prescence. Why? I'm not sure. But I don't like having the word "sinful" tossed about without any suggestion for a solution.

Anywho, I'm going to leave this tangled mess for now. It's your turn. I KNOW there are people out there reading this (you know who you are!) who never comment. I even know that some of you check this blog every day and never comment on a post--well, here's your chance! What do you think? Is it sinful to participate in a consumption-based society by attending the church most suited to your worship style? How can we solve this problem? Do you think my argument is ridiculous (or unclear...umm..)? TELL ME.



Anonymous said...

i don't think it's sinful at all. we can't all be expected to worship in the same style. and isn't that just what they did in the first century too? i mean they all went to small house churches, and i'm sure some people changed where they were going because they didn't like who was running it, or what songs they were singing or whatever.

and you can't always be hungry for God no matter how hard you try. i mean, mother teresa wasn't even sure of her faith for most of her time down in india, yet she still got up everyday and helped the lowest of the low because of the faith she had on some days. she knew what was right, but maybe didn't always feel it in a real way, so she did it out of obligation, blind faith, routine, whatever you want to call it. but we don't look down on her for her feelings, we say that they make her more human.

and i'm not even sure if we can solve this problem of "church consumerism" anyway. america is a consumerist society, mostly because we are a capitalist society and therefore we must consume for there to be jobs. since we are consumers and have so many choices, i think that naturally leads to making choices on worship style/sermon topics in our churches.

p.s. i finally commented. are you happy now?

hrobins said...

Ummm, yeah I'm happy. It only took you a friekin' YEAR to bother responding to my blog!! Regardless...I love you. =)