Friday, July 18, 2008

Everything is Spiritual?

First, I would like to thank Chad for his good post below. This is exactly what I'm hoping for here-- the meaningful and personal engagement with the reader. He immediately sparked my thinking and engagement. I want to extend the dialogue and I debated doing it in a comment and decided it was too much fun for a comment. I'm going for a post. Now that, my friends, is a successful blogpost-- when it inspires another blogpost. ;-) So thanks Chad. Now allow me to take on the Kalas quote from your post.

“Becoming familiar with sacred things can hurt us-because the sacred becomes normal.” (E. Kalas)

On the one hand I want to applaud this statement and say put it up over the door of the office.

On the other hand-- I want to say, "Dr. K! Wait. . . . . isn't that the point. . . . . for the sacred to become normal. Isn't that precisely what happens in the incarnation-- the sacred becoming normal; a normal human person-- at least the "normal" God had in mind. I mean isn't that what Rob Bellinger--I mean Bell, is talking about? ;-) Everything is Spiritual! Right? It is only when the sacred becomes normal that the normal can become sacred again.

Kalas chooses his words carefully. So maybe his emphasis is on "familiar," as in "familiarity breeds contempt." But isn't this the risk of the Incarnation everywhere it happens-- that God will be treated with contempt. (see John 1)

It's interesting that the word "familiar" descends from the Latin word, familiaris, leading to Familial. It is a "Family" word. (i.e. "children of God" see also John 1) The word means "well known from long and close association," and also "in close friendship; intimate." Would the goal be to become "unfamiliar" or "less familiar." Surely not.

So maybe the real problem I have with the saying has to do with the notion of "things." Maybe that's the problem-- worship becoming about "things." Things, like lights, cameras, sound, accoutriments, amenities, candles, icons, art, instruments, songs, liturgies, robes, bulletins, books, hymnals orders of worship and so forth. Worship is about the God, after all. Familiarity with the God seems a worthy end of worship doesn't it. Familiarity with God leads us to a proper understanding and appropriation of things. A proper approach to God tends to help the "things of worship take on symbolic or iconic or sacramental dimensions. On the other hand, a reverencing of things tends to make God distant. It creates a religious world that obscures God.

I think I do get what Chad is driving at here with his reference to the Kalas quote. He's saying don't go to sleep at the wheel. Stay vigilant. He's saying wake up to the sacred, sacramentality of our every day worship work. And he's exactly right. In the end I think I prefer the way Eugene Peterson talks about the things of worship. You are going to be tempted to think I am taking this in an entirely different direction. Peterson says that over the door of every sanctuary where the Triune God is worshiped should be a large sign that reads, "Beware the God!"


dan said...

Isn't the point of the Incarnation to make things familiar: God is now one of us? God can have solidarity with us. Now humanity has a place in the Godhead?

What is there to be afraid of? God has ripped down the wall of hostility! Yes, God is powerful, God is utterly holy (separate, foreign, set apart). But God in essence said, 'I don't care about all that, I want them."

Isn't that the Gospel story? God wanting to throw away the line of violence? Now the' holy of holies' is exposed? heaven is ripped open? sounds like God wants to be familiar with us...

chad said...

I think we should be careful how we handle incarnation"al". It is a sexy word to use right now, but I think when we just apply it to any idea or program we become to familiar with the crazy idea that God came to earth, 100% human and 100% God.

Good thoughts dan, I just wanted to throw another chicken in the fight.

dan said...

i'm confused by the first paragraph of your comment.