May 21, 2013

'Tragic Worship'

"The problem with much Christian worship in the contemporary world," Carl R. Trueman writes in the current issue of First Things, "is not that it is too entertaining but that it is not entertaining enough."
Worship characterized by upbeat rock music, stand-up comedy, beautiful people taking center stage, and a certain amount of Hallmark Channel sentimentality neglects one classic form of entertainment, the one that tells us, to quote the Book of Common Prayer, that "in the midst of life we are in death."

It neglects tragedy. Tragedy as a form of art and of entertainment highlighted death, and death is central to true Christian worship. The most basic liturgical elements of the faith, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, speak of death, of burial, of a covenant made in blood, of a body broken.
Trueman, who will be speaking in Oklahoma City later this month, laments that much of modern worship amounts to "distraction and diversion."
Praise bands and songs of triumph seem designed in form and content to distract worshipers from life's more difficult realities. Even funerals, the one religious context where one might have assumed the reality of death would be unavoidable, have become the context for that most ghastly and incoherent of acts: the celebration of a life now ended.
 I commend the entire article to you.

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