Trueman on “Tragic Worship”

The problem with much Christian worship in the contemporary world, Catholic and Protestant alike, is not that it is too entertaining but that it is not entertaining enough. Worship characterized by upbeat rock music, stand-up comedy, beautiful people taking center stage, and a certain amount of Hallmark Channel sentimentality neglects one classic form of entertainment, the one that tells us, to quote the Book of Common Prayer, that “in the midst of life we are in death.

 

It neglects tragedy. Tragedy as a form of art and of entertainment highlighted death, and death is central to true Christian worship. The most basic liturgical elements of the faith, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, speak of death, of burial, of a covenant made in blood, of a body broken. Even the cry “Jesus is Lord!” assumes an understanding of lordship very different than Caesar’s. Christ’s lordship is established by his sacrifice upon the cross, Caesar’s by power.

Read on at First Things

The Theology of Hobbits

There are relatively few passages in the Lord of the Rings like this with clear theological import. I thought this one was worth noting:

“Come on now! Longbottom Leaf it is. Fill up while I run and see about some food. And then let’s be easy for a bit. Dear me! We Tooks and Brandybucks, we can’t live long on the heights.”

“No,” said Merry. “I can’t. Not yet, at any rate. But at least, Pippin, we can now see them, and honor them. It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad that I know about them, a little. But I don’t know why I am talking like this. Where is that leaf? And get my pipe out of my pack, if it isn’t broken.”

What’s interesting here is the idea, common both to Lewis and Tolkien, that worship begins with seeing the familiar in a different light, as gift. What hobbits know is Longbottom Leaf. What they haven’t known is Aragorn, the Gandalf, and the affairs of elves, men, and wizards. To them, these powers are mysterious. Yet, these higher things are precisely the cause of the hobbits little joys and little peace. And Merry has begun to know about them, a little. Can one love God through Longbottom Leaf? I suppose you must start somewhere.

Should We Let Little Jane Do Special Music?

Our church doesn’t have special music. At least not yet. Tim Keller made an interesting point in a recent podcast I listened to. He said something to this effect: you wouldn’t put someone who wasn’t gifted to preach up in the pulpit, why put someone who is not gifted musically on stage? He also made the observation that the lower the skill level of the musician/artist the more narrow the impact their music/art will have. If we all know little Jane we’re more apt to be touched by her terrible solo. While if we don’t know her, we’ll wonder why she’s singing. Same goes for refrigerator art I suppose… He also added that he thinks perhaps professionalism (putting on a show) and colloquialism (letting Jane do the worship) are both extremes to be avoided. His church strives for ‘excellence’ (without using that term) without hiring-out professional musicians who would be performing rather than expressing worship.

Interesting thoughts at least…