I fear we aren’t just guilty of domesticating the one true God, itself a grave error. In our petulant insistence on me-worship, we have shown where our ultimate allegiance lies. Scarier still is my suspicion that most of the church doesn’t even recognize what the hell we’ve done.
In contrast to the pop-worship industry, Jonathan Aigner describes one example of what proper, traditional worship can look like, and why:
“Worship at Advent differs from common liturgical practice in the contemporary American church, to say the least. It is exceedingly beautiful, sublime even, evoking a sense of transcendence that seems strikingly out of place, even in one of the most historic cities in the country. Continuity and communion with the universal church is palpable.”
He goes on to quote The Church of the Advent’s Liturgical Customary:
“While the foregoing may seem excessively fussy, particularly in an age when manners are out of fashion and seminaries are apparently intent on turning the Mass into a rock-‘n’-roll show, remember that Divine Service is not a casual activity. The Lord’s Supper is a heavenly banquet, not a drive-thru lunch from a fast food shop. Lack of attention to deportment at Mass is as inappropriate as wearing torn jeans to a formal dinner. Sloppiness of appearance, movement or behavior will not show forth ‘the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty,’ which is what we seek to present.”
Now, there are times when a more casual (although still not sloppy, or careless) approach to worship may be appropriate. Summer camp comes to mind! Or outdoor services in general. But even in this more informal context, I believe, we still have to keep in mind the solemnity of what we are doing, and the majesty of the God we are serving.
In the words that used often to be found inscribed on the chancel arch or elsewhere in Episcopal churches of the more Anglo-Catholic persuasion (quoting Genesis 28:17),
“This is the very house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.”