Friday, December 07, 2007

Does church terrify you?

Does church terrify you? Do you get shivers down your spine when you arrive each week? Do you wake up early on a Sunday morning in a cold sweat? You should. Maybe you should. We do some scary things each week. It might seem harmless enough, but we’re playing with holy fire. We celebrate a gory death. We presume to speak to the very one who fashioned our voice box. We proclaim a message that has helped bring down empires and undermined economies. And we also affirm in the creed each week that “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”, which is no less radical, no less startling. In fact, each week we ask God to forgive us our sins in the same manner that we forgive those who sin against us - a scary prayer.
This was how I opened my recent sermon on forgiveness (of which I have recently posted pieces). Ben Myers has pointed out an excellent Annie Dillard quote on a similar theme. Twenty points for picking the church in which this photo was taken.

24 comments:

Anthony Douglas said...

Great opening, especially with the image!

Makes me feel a little nervous about opening this weekend by talking about easy listening music...not quite a note of terror...but then again...Kenny G...

vassilip said...

'There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.' (1John4:18)

Jordan said...

I like what you said, but how do we balance what you say with being told to enter the holy places with confidence (Heb 10:19)?

Chris TerryNelson said...

Thanks Byron! I've bookmarked you so that I come back more often to hear these words of wisdom! :-) I usually don't feel this way, especially as a minister, except when I have the cold sweat of being up in front of people. Makes me wish I could configure church in a non-performance way, architecturally. But that might upset some folks, no doubt.

byron smith said...

Jordan - Yes, but our confidence is also to be filled with reverence and awe as we offer acceptable worship to God (Heb 12.28), which I presume includes a sacrifice of praise, but also of generous sharing and doing good (Heb 13.15-16).

Vassilip - Amen. I was taking some poetic license with the aim of reminding us of the gravity and care with which we need to take our obligation (opportunity!) to forgive as we have been forgiven. I take it that perfect love driving out fear doesn't mean that worship isn't dangerous, just that we trust the fire in which we to be purified, no matter how painful and difficult.

byron smith said...

Chris - I take it that church is a performance, just one in which it is important that the 'audience' gets 'caught up in the action'. So perhaps rather than aiming at non-performance, our aim is for participatory performance.

byron smith said...

Anthony - be afraid, be very afraid.

vassilip said...

dear Byron

i fully agree. my 'comment' was not at all critical, but critically supporting your deep view.

may His peace and joy be with you always

Chris TerryNelson said...

I like that way of thinking about it very much. Thanks Byron!

Christopher said...

I know that there are some obvious differences, but I was reading Jeremiah Ch7 this morning and this part made me think of your post:
Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe" - safe to do all these detestable things? Jer 7:9-10.
Differences aside, I think that I can have a similar attitude to the people of Judah. Spend my time doing things that don't honour God and then go to the "safety" of the Church, Christian community, Bible or prayer and think that everything will be ok.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

St Mary's Cathedral?

byron smith said...

No. There are twenty points for this one. I do not think it will be easy... (unless someone has been there).

Moffitt the Prophet said...

I didn't think so either. Nevertheless, is it York Minster?

byron smith said...

No.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

St George's Chapel, Windsor?

byron smith said...

Nup.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Argh! Some sort of important church given the picture shows the Prince of Wales three ostrich feathers.

St Giles Edinburgh?

byron smith said...

Bingo - well reasoned. Have another twenty - you're rapidly gaining.

byron smith said...

Oh, that's also your 500 - well done!

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Wow. Were there any Prayer Books being thrown around when you were there?

byron smith said...

No, but there was one of the coolest monuments I've ever seen. I was just trying to take a photo of it the other day when someone pointed out that I wasn't meant to be taking photos (oops!). I'm sure there were no photo restrictions when we were there in 2006 (which is when I took this photo of the Thistle Chapel). Maybe I was just blind and didn't notice the signs.

Ooh, actually, I've just checked and I DO have a photo of it. I remember now. I'd taken one but didn't think it was very good, so wanted to take another one when I was stopped. Now that I realise I've got it, I won't tell you what it is and this might give you a big hint on a future post...

Anthony Douglas said...

Do you mind if I plagiarise this for my church bulletin, Byron? It's three and a half years since you wrote it, and I still remember it. I figured that's pretty good!

Well, I wouldn't actually plagiarise, because I'd credit you, but you know what I mean.

We're doing our church series, and I want another avenue to rock the boat. (Yes, it was. Fun, hey?)

byron smith said...

No problem. I recently added a creative commons license (see sidebar), so you can use this material for non-profit with attribution.

Anthony Douglas said...

Thanks Byron. Hadn't spotted the CC licence.