Evolution of a worshiper August 3, 2007 by Ben Sternke 12 Comments Sometimes I feel this kind of evolution is happening to me: Thanks to cartoonchurch.com for this! Go visit the site, there’s some funny stuff there.
Can’t help but wonder if the order of that would be funnier reversed. I always prefer to see the people raising their hands and jumping up and down while they worship anyway.
Ben Sternke says
I suppose one could jump up and down and raise their hands in a liturgical service, too!
I am attracted to liturgy because of its quiet consistency – I’ve just started to learn some things lately about WHY worship was done in such ways for so many centuries, and I’m working on re-integrating the insights and wisdom of the liturgical tradition with my own tradition and context.
Hi Ben. I’m sorry, but I don’t always catch on as quickly as I think I should. You might laugh at me, but could you explain the point of the cartoon to me. And, are you reading it the same way it was meant, or interpreting it differently? I guess I could read it a couple different ways, and I was curious what you thought.
Benjamin Sternke says
Hey Peter, thanks for the comment. I thought this cartoon would draw a few questions 😉
I guess I just found it funny because I find myself drawn towards liturgical worship in the past few years. It’s funny because I used to think you could measure how “well” a group was worshiping by simply looking at the raised hands and closed eyes. If people were emotionally “into it” they were worshiping.
There’s nothing wrong with raised hands (it’s a biblical description of prayer and worship, after all), and there’s nothing wrong with emotional engagement in worship, but there’s more than just those things, and the absence of those things is typically not anything to worry about, I don’t think.
I am drawn to liturgical worship because of the rich content, mostly. It’s worship that forms our emotions, not just expresses or reflects our current emotions. I also love the rich symbolism – crosses and incense and candles, etc. I also love how actional it is – it really is “the work of the people” (the definition of “liturgy”), in that it’s less of a show and more of a participatory dialog, with all the calls and responses.
So I find it ironic that I am being drawn to something that isn’t really “cool” or “cutting edge”, and it’s humorous that there are others out there, too. So that’s why I found the cartoon funny.
Benjamin Sternke says
Oh and I see how you could take the cartoon two different ways – like the liturgical picture at the end is the ultimate “cold and dead” end. I was taking it more as becoming disillusioned with worship-as-hands-raised and finally “coming home” to liturgy, if you get my meaning.
In that sense it was humorous to me 😉 Hope that makes sense! I didn’t really mean to say anything overtly theological, just a funny cartoon.
Yeah, it was the 2 different meanings you could get out of it that I was thinking about. Did the cartoonist mean to say people get cold and lose their passion and end up being religious in a bad and restrained sense, or is it people maturing onto that form of worship. Yeah. I catch where you’re coming from. You might be surprised (or not) to learn that I feel the opposite about it, but we’ve talked about that before. I had to laugh, because you and I are so similar and yet different on this subject. I totally respect where you’re coming from and why you approach it this way. To me, that really is what it’s about when it says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom to worship as you are so moved and convicted and led by the Spirit. Love is many-faceted, yes? emotional… serious… joyful… comitted… devoted… exuberant… sensitive… honoring… da da da da da, etc etc.
Benjamin Sternke says
Thanks Peter – I’m not surprised you see things differently. I imagine many do (especially those who grew up in liturgical churches?). Part of what I’d love to see is a fusion or integration of the two: the rich theology of liturgy with the spontaneity and openness of “charismaturgy”. Because good theology without genuine worship is dead and cold, but exuberance and passion without good theology is sentimental and weak. We need both.
Deb Sternke says
When Ben began all this talk about liturgical services, I have to admit I was incredibly uncomfortable.(as he knows… I kept saying, “Would you stop talking about liturgical services!”) I grew up in the catholic church, left when I was 15 and became a christian when I was 18. I’ve been going to “charismatic/Vineyard” type churches ever since I was 18. Anything liturgical or like the catholic church has always produced an incredibly uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.
But, the blessing that my husband is, he continued to ask questions about liturgical services and ways of worship. I began to wonder if I needed to set aside my emotional response and really look at liturgy and give it a fair chance. After all, people for ages have been practicing liturgy, so maybe there is something of substance there?
As I began to look at the elements of the liturgical service and WHY those specific things were done – I was inspired. I loved the “crafted prayers” that they prayed together and the fact of praying them “even when I’m not emotionally up for it” was an intriguing thing to me. (We’re forming our minds to Christ.)
I think that there is a balance between the liturgy and the “charismatic” way of doing a service. There needs to be, I think, the openness to the spirit, flexibility to the spirit, freedom to worship in a variety of physical ways, etc. but also the regular practices of reading scripture, verbal proclamations of truth, praying these ancient crafted prayers, etc.
I think it’s a place that can be found.
Deb, I remember from past talks that we have similar backgrounds and experiences. This discussion reminds me of the pendulum concept. Could it be that this simple dynamic is a factor in a lot of what’s happened? God restores truths and practices to the church, and then many take it too far in one direction. I can’t help but hear Ron’s quotes in my mind: “The correction for abuse is not disuse, but correct use.”
I still shy away from traditional “Liturgy” practices, because of how they’ve been practiced. However, I do believe some of those (the ones that don’t contradict scripture) can be practiced with faith and thus be more than just the futile, religious exercises they can sometimes be.
I will say, too, though, that I don’t “go for” everything put out in modern churhces either. I can’t sing all the words to the songs, for instance, when they’re not biblical. “It’s not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way,” is something I come back to. On the same token, I’m hyper sensitive that I’m not just doing things “by rote or ritual.” I also don’t want to be “lacking in zeal” or fervor.
“What shall we say then in response to these things?” ‘Liturgy without religiosity!’ or something like that.
I think a cool thing is that the cartoon progression could go both ways. For some, it would be good to let go of some of the structured form to better engage the heart. For others, learning to approach worship in a more thoughtful way through liturgy, symbols, etc. could greatly deepen their faith and understanding. Either way, it’s important that the form of worship not become an absolute (thinking our way is the only way, or even the best way). That just makes idols of our practices and gets in the way of true worship of God. All of these things – raised hands, crafted prayers, sober reflection, crazy dances – just serve as vehicles to help connect our hearts and minds with God’s and to bring expression to the worship He is due. I know I’m probably just restating what’s been said here already, but sometimes it helps me process to get it into my own words…
I love that thought of God using worship to form Christ in us. So much to chew on there.
Like Ben and Deb both expressed, a combination of all of these forms of worship is ideal, and I think it’s really exciting to be a part of a congregation where this is happening – I’m so grateful. 🙂 It’s always a good thing when we are learning to appreciate what others do and have done, especially when it comes to faith practices.
Oh, and once I was at a service where the pastor processed down the isle in a robe with a cross, looking much like the picture in the cartoon, and then proceeded to clap and dance around up front during the worship time. Pretty wild, huh? Even the people who I was with – who were not at all into charismatic worship – couldn’t help but notice and comment on the shocking beauty of it all.
Hello. Just to say that I’m glad the cartoon has raised some questions and debate.
Benjamin Sternke says
Thanks for stopping by, Dave. I’ve subscribed to your blog, and have been enjoying it.