Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Third Sunday of Easter

Today's readings are Acts 9:1-6; Psalm 30; John 21:1-19 and Rev. 5:11-14. 

On this third Sunday of Easter I want to continue with some quotes from Robert Webber’s book Ancient-Future Time. Webber notes two “quagmires” that the church frequently finds herself in: “worship that is constantly explained and worship that encourages a romantic relationship with God.”

Worship which constantly explains itself is a result of the Enlightenment. “The only aspect of humanity that is capable of perception, it is argued, is the mind. So everything done in worship is verbalized. “‘We are going to do such and such. Now that we have done that, we are going to do this. Do you see and understand the connection?’ We verbalize confessions, explain hymns, and, worst of all, beat the Lord’s Supper to death with explanation on top of explanation. No wonder people are bored. We need to learn the biblical action of worship and trust the symbols we do to be performative.”

Then comes the romanticizing of worship. Webber traces this to the romantic movement of the nineteenth century. “Here a relationship with God is expressed in emotional and sentimental terms often using romantic images. Some contemporary songs are overly romantic. I attended a new church recently in which God was romanticized in the music. A couple in front of me acted out the entire scenario. . . Worship is not a romantic experience with God even though it may be very moving and touch the heart deeply.”

“A favorite reading for the third Sunday of Easter is the powerful account of Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). This story is vital for the renewal of our worship because it is all about how to structure worship out of the death and resurrection and how to experience resurrection spirituality in worship.”

Webber notes that Liturgical scholarship finds a pattern in the Cleopas story which is based on the event. Cleopas is on the road with his friends, Jesus comes and walks with them and proclaims the meaning of his death and resurrection. They are then at the table with Jesus after which they run back to Jerusalem to witness to the disciples in the upper room. The patter for worship looks like this:

We gather
To hear the good news
To break bread together
To go forth and tell others

This worship is God’s doing. “The Bible is clear: It is always God who initiates a relationship. What is true generally is also true in worship. Worship is God’s work.” Webber says our work is to “do the work of remembrance and hope. In worship we remember God’s acts of salvation in history, especially God’s work in the death and resurrection of Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sins and to be a victor over the powers of evil.” But through this act of worship we are transformed people. “Cleopas and his companion were dislocated as they walked the road to Emmaus. Jesus met them in their point of need, proclaimed the meaning for them of his death and resurrection, and encountered them through a transforming experience at the table. They were changed people when they ran back to Jerusalem to proclaim the resurrection.”

“This is the message of the third Sunday of Easter.” (151-153)

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