(a ‘targum’ of John 8:3-11)
3 The representatives of a group of churches brought in one of their churches which was caught in the act of blessing a same sex marriage. They made it stand before Jesus 4 and said to him, “Teacher, this church was caught in the act of blessing a same sex marriage. 5 In our understanding of our denominational processes, we have authority to discipline this church. We have spent two years drafting propositions to this effect, and some dare to want to edit our propositions. What then, do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to ensure that the gathered assembly kept their original wording exactly intact, not a jot and tittle amended or softened, lest anyone suspect them of being soft on sin.
But Jesus walked past the microphone and sat down next to the pastor and gay delegate from the accused church. 7 When they kept on asking him to speak, he walked to the microphone and said to them, “Let any church which has never blessed any other kinds of sin be the first to kick this church out of your union.” 8 Then again he sat down next to the pastor and gay delegate from the accused church.
9 At this, those who heard began to lay down their voting papers one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the pastor and gay delegate from the accused church sitting next to him. 10 Jesus motioned to the empty room and asked them, “Church, where are they? Has no one kicked you out of their group of churches?”
11 “No one, sir,” they said.
“Then neither do I shame you, condemn you, or kick you out of my family,” Jesus declared. “But now, go and no longer bless what is sinful.”
Another way of talking about corporate worship is to say that it is worship that is enacted by the whole body – the catholic (universal) corpus (body).
In an ultimate, truly catholic corporate worship is not possible until the Age to Come, when every tongue, tribe and nation expresses it. But Jesus’ prayer in John 17 expresses a desire for a kind of catholicity that we should continually strive for.
I’m interested (and just might explore in my Masters Thesis?) in ways that we can express worship that re-unites the Corpus Christi. I guess that makes me an Ecumenical Baptist. But isn’t that what Jesus prays for in John 17? How can the Church worship across all the divides we have? Across Liturgical and ‘Free’ Church worship frameworks; Across ‘Catholic’, Orthodox and Protestant traditions; Across Episcopal and Congregational (and other) leadership approaches; Across the nasty, embittered Liberal and Conservative ditch; Across painful Charismatic/Pentecostal and Cessationist arguments; Across the separations that split ‘Dying Old Folks Churches’, ‘Family Churches’, ‘Arty-Farty Churches’ and ‘Young Hip Cool Churches’; Across the divisions within a single church that has separate services for Elderly, Families, Singles/Young-Adults, Youth, and Children; and more.
Because it is.
There’s the infamous ‘hymns’ versus ‘choruses’ debate that still echoes around the church. But I think the new issue will be ‘liturgical’ v. ‘non-liturgical’ (or ‘free’?) debate.
I just preached a sermon which discussed ‘worship’ and suggested that we (Baptists) may need to review our approach. I made reference to some ‘liturgical’ forms of worship and briefly sketched how and why those forms are meaningful and not just empty ‘rituals’ ((I find it annoying that the word ritual is often associated with meaninglessness.)).
I was approached by two people after the service. The first, with glowing eyes and face, told me how much she loved what I was saying. The first words of the second person couldn’t have been more opposite: they suggested that if I wanted to be Anglican perhaps I should switch denominations.
I stuck with the conversation and it got better. But I was reminded once again that when it comes to worship, be prepared for very strong opinions!