Sunday, October 9, 2005

Fragments of Postmodern Liturgy V

Contraband + Banter

There are many rules in church. For example, you’re not supposed to talk at all during the service, unless you’re the man with the big microphone. Neither are you supposed to talk about a variety of subjects outside of the service including sex, money, anger, resentment, biblical misunderstanding, or fear. But one of the frequent disappointments I see registering in people who are spiritually hungry and come to church is that they don’t get to have conversation. They don’t get the space to actually connect with other people, or with Jesus. We give them programs and media, messages and textual proof about relationships, but they never get a chance to have one. We need to create space for conversation. We need to create space for people to talk to one another, space for people to personally speak to God in a corporate setting, and silent space which only God can fill.

In ministry, I have found it increasingly helpful to frame conversation as being more about having space to ask questions than anxiety about finding answers. Brian McLaren expressed something comparable when he said “our words will be servants of mystery, not removers of it, as they were in the old world[i]” while describing the progressive role of pastors in the 21st Century. Similarly, Walter Brueggman suggests we ought to see our lives much like drama, where two characters – ourselves and God - recognize and acknowledge one another with respect, which in turn allows us to see ourselves as significant to God[ii]. It puts us in the room with a God who cares and wants to talk. Nothing is off limits, as we pace through the plot of life.
Lifting the embargo on contrabanter enables us to pray with the honesty of Old Testament prophets and the confidence of sinners saved by grace. Like Jeremiah, we can humbly say “I don’t know anything – I’m only a boy![iii]” and still draw near to God “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.[iv]” Contrabanter assumes confidence with God, and with others, and brings everything hidden into the light, as we ourselves we called “out of darkness into His wonderful light[v].”

[i] Brian McLaren, The Church on the Other Sidep.89
[ii] cf. Walter Brueggman, Texts Under Negotiation p.65
[iii] Jeremiah 1.6
[iv] Hebrews 10.22, NIV
[v] 1 Peter 2.19, NIV

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