Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Worship is more than words

In his book Telling Secrets Frederick Buechner tells of visiting St. Barnabas Episcopal Church "an evangelical high church." Part of the service was chanted and "I discovered that when a prayer or a psalm or a passage from the Gospels is sung, you hear it in a new way. What the chanting did was to remind me that worship is more than words...that words are not only meaning, but music, magic and power. The chanting italicized them...."

He also writes about their use of incense, "...the church was suddenly filled with Christmas. The hushed fragrance of it, the thin haze of it, seemed to say that it is not just to our minds that God seeks to make himself known (because whatever we may think, we are much more than our minds). but to our sense of touch and taste too, to our seeing and hearing and smelling the air."

I am thankful that more than ever before contemporary Christian music is singing the words of the Psalms and the Gospels. A Dominican nun once said, "When you pray, you walk to God; when you sing, you run to God." We have begun to run.

My fellowship has been very slow to acknowledge that the human being learns other ways than rationally, logically, academically. We have very little in our buildings or in our services that meet the soul by touch, taste (except communion) or smell.
Indeed, we don't even touch each other in fellowship, while other churches "pass the peace." In our stripped-down buildings there are not even baptismal paintings any more. Just beige here, beige there.

More about this later.

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