Tag Archives: worship

Jesus is coming. Look busy?

New EWP Talk: A Sacred Church

The “faith and work movement” in America is in danger of deepening the sacred-secular divide . . . by approaching and understanding church in some secularizing ways. If we want to find the sacred in the world – including in our workplaces – we must first find it in our churches. And when we do, our work can be revolutionized.

That is the burden of this short TED-style talk I recently presented at a meeting of faculty members teaching in the Oikonomia Network of seminaries. The talk draws from a still-popular book called For the Life of the World, based on a series of talks on the mission of the church by the late Alexander Schmemann of St. Vladimir’s Seminary (Eastern Orthodox) in New York.

Reclaiming the physical in Christian worship

holy-wounds-devotionHere’s the last bit of the “affective devotion” chapter draft for Getting Medieval with C S Lewis:

Reclaiming the physical

Finally, among the varied aspects of our human nature, our emotions seem especially closely tied with our physical bodies. We use the same words, “feeling” or “being touched,” for the physical senses and for emotional experiences. But reading Margery Kempe’s Book makes me ask: Where has the sense of the spiritual importance of touch or physicality gone in today’s culture? Are these human senses now allowed to communicate anything true or spiritual to us? We have plenty of the visual in our TV- and movie-soaked culture, and even in our churches. But how often do we experience anything spiritually significant through touch? The most intense, ecstatic touch-experiences, those of our sexuality, have been devalued and dehumanized through obsessive attention and being made into the commodities of the impersonal marketplace. I think that like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Margery’s life of devotion and the whole English mystical tradition can help to draw today’s Christians back to the sort of visible, physical devotion epitomized in the medieval pilgrimage.

In the mid-90s I was giving a lecture on Pentecostalism at an evangelical seminary in New England. I was describing the huge influxes of eager believers, every day, by the busload, to the Azusa Street Revival that launched Pentecostalism in 1906, and again to the modern Toronto Airport Vineyard revival and the Brownsville/Pensacola revivals One student put up his hand and asked, with skepticism in his voice: “Why do Pentecostals and charismatics feel that it’s so important to actually go to the place where a revival is supposedly happening, to ‘bring back’ that revival to their home churches?” Continue reading

Read the new Christian History Guide to Worship from Constantine to the Reformation

Well, my love affair with the Middle Ages (warts and all) continues with the new issue of Christian History. This one is another mini-guide, like our Guide to Christian Thought on Hell.

This one surveys worship from the time of Constantine to the eve of the Reformation.

Master writer and liturgiologist (and friend) Dr. Jennifer Woodruff Tait wrote the whole thing, and it’s wonderful.

The design by Doug Johnson and images found by image researcher Jennifer Trafton help create a marvelous sense of time travel: the thematic articles on art & architecture, Scripture and sermons, music, leadership, and sacraments survey the landscape of medieval worship, and the three “snapshots” of what it would have been like to experience a worship service in 400, 800, and 1400 AD put you in the midst of the action.

Go ahead and check it out, in its full, image-rich glory, at http://www.christianhistorymagazine.org. I would love to hear your feedback here.

Hymns are hip

Other people try to be hip. Minnesota singer-songwriter-musician and now Nashota House seminarian Tyler Blanski IS hip–in the most Godly, positive possible meaning of the word. And when he says hymns are hip too, you can take his word for it. Here’s a sample of his post on the topic:

It does something to you. To stand and sing hymns in a chapel packed with men and women, all wearing their cassocks and surplices, all kneeling and crossing themselves profusely, all lifting their prayers to God changes you. You might think singing hymns is painfully awkward, banal, or for grandparents. But let me tell you, when you hear a chorus of voices booming and thundering, O Worship the King, all gorious above! O gratefully sing his power and his love! Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise!, and when you get to sing along with all your heart, you begin to see that our grandparents were actually badasses (in the “formidable, excellent” sense of the word). You can see the fear of God on your peer’s faces, or the joy of the Lord, or humility to the point of tears. Two days ago, while singing hymns, I could not maintain complete stoicism, and started crying before Christ.

I didn’t know it, but I love hymns. You think what you want is a U2 concert, but you don’t. Since I’m a folk-singer, guitar-hammering rocker, I cannot believe I’m saying this, but when sung by people who care, and when song boldly and with great joy, hymns make our contemporary lyrics and rock ballads sound like Junior High band practice (although, contemporary worship can sometimes also be amazingly beautiful and rich). Maybe it’s because “the lyrics” are so often genuine poetry. Or maybe it’s because the human voice remains the most beautiful instrument on earth. Because it is the only instrument made by God Himself, and not man, some medieval Christians forbade instruments of any kind in the sanctuary. Regardless of the reason, the singing of hymns here at Nashotah House has been for me a surprising form of spiritual formation.

Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite? It breathes in the air; it shines in the light; it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain!

Thanks, Tyler! Today you reminded me of one of the Good things in life.

Historians at play

See below for some great church-historical posts from this week in cyberspace. There’s more where these came from: my Bethel University colleague Chris Gehrz’s (yes, that’s his smiling mug at right) new blog, The Pietist Schoolman.

Is contemplative prayer a legitimate Christian practice?

Cover of

Over at Internet Monk, an excellent review of a book on classic Christian spirituality, Gary Thomas’s Sacred Pathways, has stirred up a heck of a hornet’s nest. A couple of critics are insisting at some length that contemplative prayer of the sort Thomas, Foster, Willard, and others recommend is “syncretistic” and thus dangerous.

Here is an excerpt from the review:

If you’ve read anything else by Gary Thomas or checked out his website, you know that unlike some evangelicals he believes that the Holy Spirit has been active throughout Christian history, not just since 1517. Continue reading