ANGLICAN 1000: David Taylor: The Formative Power of Artful Worship
March 10, 2012
I am not a church planter. I don't feel called to it but you have my prayers and respect. I hope what I share will be helpful to the work you do.
[Starts with a quote from Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics. I could not type fast enough get all of it, but here is the gist]
"In the death of Christ, God the Creator and Lord of life takes the lost cause of man out of his hand, makes it his own and intervenes majestically and wisely. What arises is not random joy but qualified joy. Joy has been destroyed on the one hand and reconstituted on the other but then raised to the level of a command. Joy is now before the Lord and in him but it is a genuine earthly and human joy-wedding, harvest, victory, wine-drinking, eating bread, play, speak and dance, as well as pray. We must remember that the man who hears and takes to heart the biblical message is forbidden to be anything but merry and cheerful."
Such a beautiful statement. What if we took Barth's ideas about joy and used them with a different linguistic key? What would it sound like as poetry? What would it sound like?
[four stanzas of "Ode to Joy" are projected onto the screen]
These four lines of poetry say almost as much as Barth's surging swelling Germanic text. The metaphoric language captures our experience of joy not against Barth but with him. What if we not only read it but also sing it? Let's sing the verses together.
[The audience sings with piano accompaniment]
What happened when we added music to poetry? We experienced the way song has two functions:
Song concentrates human emotion and compresses it into choice select images.
Hearts unfurling like flowers. Chanting birds. Morning stars as choirs.
We sing this song as representation too. It represents exactly what we always wanted to say about this particular kind of joy. This melody and these words give language to what we want to say but can't often can't in mere prose. What if we made one more adjustment and change not just the mode but the posture in which we sing?
What if we turned our bodies toward one another and lifted our hands and sang this song?
You will have to bear with me. You're all third graders and I'm your teacher.
[Crowd stands up and one half of crowd faces the other half lifting their arms. They sing again]
We could go on and on adding dancers, adding instrumentals, singing it in Spanish, Swahili, but suffice it to say that where we ended is not where we began. We shifted from analytical, to metaphorical, from talking about joy to incorporating joy into our bodies. We began by hearing Barth's exegesis of gladness and we responded by enacting gladness. In short what we've done is to taste what the arts have to offer corporate worship.
Question: How does liturgical art, any art in the context of worship, not only compliment but enable the congregation to do what it otherwise would not do?
Does it not bring something that the congregation could not otherwise do?
The liturgical arts serve to deepen our interactive imaginative purpose but also they disciple the whole person in their own way but not their own terms:
We have 4 tasks.
1. To answer the question, what are the problems that confront liturgical arts 2. Provide a working definition of liturgical art in corporate worship 3. To describe the contribution of liturgical arts to worship and the life of the congregation 4. To examine a case study I. There are 2 problems that confront liturgical arts and that can be addressed through them
1. The allure of "right ideas": The thinking that says "if we can rationally persuade through preaching, the disciples will figure it out." This is brain on a stick theology. Here the presumed relationship is, "you get your theory right then the actions flow out of that." We see people in this theory sitting and absorbing information.
This approach fails to look like a biblical vision of worship. We don't think our way through to action. Action flows from a nexus of loves, longings, and habits that huddle under the hood, that move us sometimes without consciously thinking about it.
This mentalist approach fails to change those hidden dynamics that happen Monday thru Saturday with movies and billboards that capture our imaginations, and causes that move us to action and magazines that move our affections, and with damaging appetites, what confidence do we have in sermons, do they have a fighting chance to change our lives in the face of these?
A mentalist approach seems to approach worship like science or math rather than basketball
Basketball involves science, but you cannot become a great player by sitting in a classroom listening to basketball lectures. You learn by doing. This "doing" is a relational embodied thing that habituates you to do basketball....ritual automates a feel for the game.
Worship is more like basketball than math. You do and engage and practice and you acquire a feel for the game.
2. The second problem is the poverty of small ideas about liturgical arts. What would it look like if I took Roseberry's talk from yesterday and turned it into a hymn. I want you to know David that the HS inspired me and I was on my bed and it came to me by dictation from the HS.
Quotes a hymn text he wrote as a response to David's talk.
1000 churches sometimes lurches Speed bumps, potholes, things go awry Yet here we are: a net together, not alone, not a fly Team work, hard work, guess work, cold work Jesus, master and commander Blessing WEDCAP, weak boy network AMEN [laughter]
[he puts it to song and sings it]
This is all fun, but what happens when it goes wrong? Behind my ideas of God as Father, for example, is an image...if I put this into art, the real thing might be broken by my image.
So here is what art can become in worship if it is merely an expression of what I feel about God:
"I just want to feel you and gotta love you cause I can't help myself, I just wanna be with you..."
This is a disordered expression emotion that actually serves to break or twist the thing trying to be expressed...love for God into a very self-centered vision What will counter this?
What kind of leadership do we need?
Leadership capable of concentrating and representing the affections of the person and finding ways to order them and by helping them enter into holistic practices.
Which brings us to the second task
2.Worship: defining liturgy in corporate worship?
[He gives three different quotes as answers that he read too fast too copy-will try to get them]
Liturgical arts in corporate worship should serve to form our whole persons, from the inside and in symbolic fashion.
3rd task: describe the contribution of liturgical arts to worship and the life of the congregation
When St. Gregory of Nazianzus says "What God has not assumed he has not healed" he means that Christ has healed us in taking on our form, our nature in the Incarnation. The desire is to find ways to get our whole person to fit into the healing work of God. Liturgical arts are able ways of doing this...by bringing our bodies into intentional and intensive expressions of worship.
Liturgical action, helps us to rightly order our affections-saying the Psalms, kneeling and standing-these train the heart and the body. The visual work, for example, of viewing and contemplating paintings of Christ's resurrection fixates our eyes and minds on God's sovereign power over the physical creation over and against Docetism.
The goal is for a fitting concentration and representation of all our faculties so that all affections are positively engaged in an ordered way. This forms us from the inside by offering us experiences from the inside. Scriptures offer analogy. Jesus and the young lawyer in Luke 10:25-3...Jesus tells a story because that is the best way to communicate neighborly love. So rather than just giving the facts, Jesus uses a story to draw the lawyer subversively into the truth. He makes the lawyer feel the truth. A twist occurs and the lawyer finds himself implicated as the bad guy not the good guy.
In worship we can talk about the importance of our bodies or we can set them into movement. We can talk about baptism of the imagination or we can give them good things to look at.
Good sermons perform a good service. They are important yet when we provide opportunities for our imaginations to be formed in the inside...we see that we can create actors rather than spectators.
Habitual reforming of behavior through liturgy will symbolically form us. Our bodies possess inertias and some of them are dysfunctional. I have an anxious friend. You can see it on his forehead. So when a priest processes and is preceded by the crucifer, this is a symbolic dramatic movement-this says, this is what our bodies are for. When we cross ourselves it's a way to remind our hearts that we live a cruciform life in all places.
Exercise: pretend you are coming home after a long day, find your favorite couch and slouch in it. Now stay slouched.
Now we say Psalm 51 in a slouched position.
That is one way of saying such this great psalm...but notice it doesn't feel right.
There is something about our bodies that is yearning for a physical expression of confession of sin when we read psalm 51.
So let's say it on our knees.
[whole crowd kneeling says the psalm in unison].
Some of the things we do have a symbolic function that train us in a way of seeing the rest of our lives.
How about our affections? We do not improve or form our emotions by simply letting them do what they will do. Our malformed emotions do not know what to do with themselves. We pout, envy, hate etc.
When we sing songs of lament, whether we feel it or not, it is a way of saying, this is what our affections are for. We are to feel a right "this" kind of sorrow or anger and express it in this way. When a persecuted church sings All Creatures of our God and King it is a way of waking our hearts to the anticipation of joy regardless of circumstance. We are teaching our emotions how to order themselves and express themselves in keeping with God's design for them...to be used to glorify him.
Exercise: [Psalm 98:4-6 is projected onto the screen]
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord."
Say it in a whisper together.
[audience says psalm together whispering]
You sounded lame.
This time do it in your best "Data" impersonation from Star Trek-as woodenly as possible. Monotone.
[Crowd does it]
Okay, stand up, let us be doers of the word and shout.
[audience shouts out the psalm]
That was wonderful. Thank you.
Again shouting does not make you more of a Christian but this allows our bodies and imaginations to enter into the truths of scripture. There is something wholesome about shouting in church.
"We do not see reality by just opening our eyes. Our eyes need to be trained to see truth"[paraphrase] (Stanley Hauerwas)
So what happens to a community shaped by catacomb art-martyrdom art in which Jesus is seen conquering death and the grave? These act as counter-narratives to the emperor cult...they charge the community with a vision that sustains it through suffering. There is a Ruler enthroned in the heavens, above Caesar, risen from the dead.
Sometimes our people need something positive to gaze upon, to liven the heart.
Third exercise: Eph 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Let's stand and say it together...
[The audience stands and recites the text]
He asks a man to stand in the center of the room. Everyone is told to turn away from him.
Say the text again.
[The crowd does so]
How does that feel?
This is sometimes the way that churches worship. As if their bodies are turned away from each other. So let's try the opposite. Everyone turn toward him now.
A sanctuary with chairs shaped in a circular form allows a congregation to see that we are in this together. It's not magic but what does it mean to arrange our space in the way that we face away from each other? What if we could arrange our space in a way that reflects what we say and sing?
The liturgical arts form us in their own way from the inside and in their own fashion.
4. Case study: What does it mean for a congregation to pray with the eyes and not just the ears?
Laura Jennings came to display her art in our church. I explained to our congregation that Laura's work was not just an ornament but it is intended to help us see the gospel afresh and in doing so we could be inspired to live out the gospel afresh.
Laura's art depicted groups we often overlook. War victims and less known people groups. It was more than the subject matter that challenged us, it was the style...more abstract than literal. Some folks only saw strange shapes and colors. Others just saw decorations. Others took the time to look over and over and again, they persevered...for them meaning unfolded over time. Unseen things resolved into material shapes. By showing us pixelated bodies Laura's art reminded us we cannot see people rightly just by looking at them. Our sight is damaged and needs mending.
The subjects were things she taught us we could feel sad or angry about. Her art also allowed us to see that God is in fact present in suffering. Her art challenged us to love the poor and needy. In experiencing Laura's art in lent the congregation was given the ability to see the poor in gospel ways. We prayed with our eyes and were changed.
Was it magical, or immediate? No. It was a slow process...due in some part to the long training process. We'd done a lot of training. We saw that the sanctification of our eyes would need to take place over a long time. We would need to create a culture.
If liturgical art disciplines us in anything in particular, it helps us to see the people nearby who we usually have no desire to see... but now we could see them with a simple sympathetic love.
Hawerawas said that God is the Lord of history means we must be able to joyfully imagine that things need to change and will not be as they are now (my paraphrase)
The lion will eventually lie down with the lamb.
The victim of war need no longer be the outcast.
For us with Laura's art, it meant looking through art to the broken people who lived across the sea but also helped us see them in the next pew as well. It enabled us to set ourselves into a redemptive story that not only permits us to act but forbids us to do anything but be merry and cheerful as we do so in the world our circumstances notwithstanding.
Question: by God's grace and opportunity...what opportunities are we giving our people to have their bodies discipled by how they move? And what opportunities are we giving them to have their affections rightly habituated by what they are invited to feel? And what opportunities are we giving them to have their imaginations formed by what they see?
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