The liturgy of the church defines who says what and when
controls and directs; makes it safe, predictable;
guards against unauthorised activity.
The liturgy of the church defines its theology and behaviour;
guards against unauthorised concepts,
or taking a radical path.
AN ANCIENT VIEWPOINT
From Isaiah Chapter 1
Stop bringing me meaningless offerings.
Your incense is detestable to me.
Your sabbaths and meetings I can not bear.
Your worthless assemblies I hate with all my being.
When you spread your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes.
Even when you offer many prayers I am not listening.
From Amos Chapter 5
I despise your religious festivals.
Your assemblies are a stench to me.
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Away with the noise of your songs! .
To many "worship" implies singing.
It is through music and song that they meet divinity;
feel to holy presence; are lifted to another plane;
lose themselves in praise and wonder.
It is through such singing that we are called
to express our deepest feelings, spirituality;
yet in words we may not really believe
but sing to maintain harmony
with our fellows.
Our songs are led with joyous amplified enthusiasm,
whilst we, the congregation, often sing in tuneless mutters
underwhelmed by words we do not mean and a tuen we can not follow.
It is such singing, such expressions, statements and music
that repel those doubtfully unorthodox, marginal.
It is such singing that denies inclusive church,
that demands adherence to the ideas of the composer
and the spiritual conceptions of the singing group.
We are called to worship in words we may not feel
in denial of our personal relationship with divinity
to harmonise in words that we do not truly believe,
when many find divinity in other ways,
even in silence.
The Creeds are statements of adherence to present doctrine
formulated nearly 2000 years ago and still insisted upon.
In those 2000 years there has been no radical change;
no re-imagination of the reality of divinity,
despite tomes of bounded theology.
In these statements of belief:
We are still bound to the theology of infancy;
the fairy stories of magic and miracle,
and a heavenly realm above the clouds.
They provide yet another barrier
between people and church.
We stand and recite them by rote as proof of membership,
but does anyone really believe what they are saying?
Many give great moment to the preacher,
proclaimer of God's word for the day,
interpreting the scriptures
It is from the pulpit that right thinking is proclaimed.
It is from here that we, who stray, are condemned.
From here comes the voice of righteousness
using our latest sound system
to broadcast ancient ideas.
Yet, no dicussion is permitted of the text.
The truth, as proclaimed, can not be questioned
merely ignored as irrelevant to our life and times.
Why do those clergy bother? Why waste their time and ours?
All that they have prepared and projected is forgotten;
lost to all but their notes by the end of that day;
it very seldom even carries enough impact
to raise any hackles or opposition.
The sermon is proverbially a time
during which the congregation
sleep or do their knitting.
The Confessional is said to be the place
where people let God's love win.
The Confessional can thus joyfully lead us
into a closer meeting with divinity.
Here we can come to realise
that we are saints in the making;
seeking that 'Sacrament of Reconciliation',
avoiding the pride that tries to do it alone;
the ultimate trap of individualism.
This is said to be less about sin than about surrender,
about allowing Christ's victory in a person's life.
There temptations lose all of their luster,
and divinity takes center stage.
Sadly the church calls for that surrender to be
through a priest or other anointed being
Such confession loses all its own lustre
when placing power in another's hands.
Sadly this is said by rote, another part of the fixed liturgy,
when true surrender to the path of Jesus
could change us and thus Creation.
At that simple supper he was said to say
that we should drink wine and eat bread
in remembrance of him.
So we kneel in humility at the altar rail
hands outstretched to receive
the Body and Blood of Jesus.
The holiest of rites and
the time of blessing.
This has become the place of priestly power
appointed, anointed, to dispense the blessing;
the Bread and Wine, Body and Blood, ritual forgiveness.
This is the rite retained by those officially ordained,
justifing a continued role for ancient clerics.
It is a rite that maintains control.
Herein lies the true power of Christian priests.
Here lies the prosperity of church and monastery.
Here lies the authority of bishop and presbyter.
Here lies division and potential conflict
between the powerblocks of religion.
But the blood of the sacrifice has always represented its life.
In drinking the wine that represents the blood of Jesus,
we are truly accepting the life of Jesus for ourselves.
We are saying that we are prepared to follow his path;
to challenge conformity to the ways of this world;
and face exclusion, condemnation,
But that is not an understanding
put forward by church liturgy
centred on doctrinal
salvation for sin!
The prayers of the faithful ring out in congregations
religious groups of every faith and nationality.
Yet does Divinity respond?
Is there here reality?
In praying for others we show them that we care;
we demonstrate our love and our concern,
but does God also listen, absorb, act ?
Are our worries reflected
in divine response?
With many words we call out our requests to God
so sharing our needs with each other
sharing the pain of our existence
hopes for our tomorrow.
And with our ears
For our prayers are reflected back to us for action
either directly as we hear another's need, or
in the whispered lure of God's voice
to fulfill the needs of others,
to act and rectify
Yet we need to listen carefully for God's voice
not loudly demanding justice or provision
but, in silence, offering what we can do;
listening for divinity in open humility
ready to give not to receive.
In prayer we need to look for divine direction
not providing directions for divinity,
but asking God for guidance,
for what we should do,
write, think or say.
Yet it is this liturgy that often forms a barrier;
repels those seeking for spiritual reality,
those who the church desire to welcome,
yet repel through its behaviour.