14 August 2017

Divine Worship: Tragedy or Comedy?

Carl Trueman has a fine piece here commenting on the declining place of the tragic in Christian worship. What can he possibly mean?

Christian worship should immerse people in the reality of the tragedy of the human fall and of all subsequent human life. It should provide us with a language that allows us to praise the God of resurrection while lamenting the suffering and agony that is our lot in a world alienated from its creator, and it should thereby sharpen our longing for the only answer to the one great challenge we must all face sooner or later.
In other words, the better we comprehend how bad things (including us) really are, the better we can comprehend how great is the good news of the gospel. Christ descended before he ascended; he died before he was raised; and he was humiliated before he was exalted.

Perhaps the ho-hum attitude of many Christians to the glorious truths of God's work of redemption can be explained in terms of their ignorance of just how parlous is their current state. Of course, it's easy to forget how bad things are when they aren't. The contemporary Western upper-middle class surfeit of material goods and pre-packaged experiences preoccupy many. Many Christians turn to the Church of Moral Therapeutic Deism (see here and hereand non-Christians to transhumanism (here) but for just about everyone, discussing the reality and meaning of death remains off-limits in polite company.

Trueman goes on to describe contemporary funerals, as I have lamented here and here, that fail to acknowledge that the person playing the lead role is really dead:

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. The Twenty-Third Psalm and “Abide with Me” were funeral staples for many years but not so much today. References to the valley of the shadow of death and the ebbing out of life’s little day, reminders both of our mortality and of God’s faithfulness even in the darkest of times, have been replaced as funeral favorites by “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “My Way.” The trickle down economics of worship as entertainment has reached even the last rites for the departed.
Christian worship doesn't end with tragedy, of course, but with audible and tangible participation in victory. Confession of sin is followed by assurance of pardon and the Word preached is followed by the Word consumed. And all worship ends in the blessing of benediction. But we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death if we hope to understand what it means to travel the road to paradise.

No comments:

Post a Comment