This morning we observed Christ the King/The Reign of Christ at Judson Memorial Baptist Church. To be honest I'm not a fan of those medieval titles but I live with them until new metaphors emerge. The point of the service was to close the liturgical year. I took as my text Paul's letter to the Philippians chapter three verses ten to twenty one, using the theme of holding on and pressing on. The central questions of the homily (yet again, even my short homily was longer than my previous long sermons from the past) what was worth holding onto from the past year and what did you need to press on from the previous year.
The homily ended with a time of reflection, after which worshippers were invited forward to light a candle as a representation of what they were holding onto and what they were pressing on from. The worship committee designed the service and the liturgy, my golly are they a talented bunch! As folk came forward I could tell that the ritual was a meaningful one for them, each brought to the candle their own interpretation of the event (which is the way it is supposed to be, I can neither control nor desire to control that experience). I lit a candle for matters that I wish not to share, let me simply say there are things that I wish to press on from and hold onto the experiences of community that I am soaking up daily. As I sat down in my position behind the pulpit I began to get nervous, what if someone catches their sleeve on fire, what if someone put too much hair spray or gel into their hair this morning and their hair catches fire and they light up like a roman candle? What if someone trips and knocks everything off the table, what if we run out of candles, what if... That's the way my mind works. Luckily none of these things happened, the service went swimmingly.
Upon the conclusion of the service. I was taken aback by how many people found meaning in the service. I never know how folk are going to respond to something that I thought was a great and beautiful idea (with each new layer the worship committee kept blowing me away with their beauty and depth). One parishioner remarked about how if you give folk a chance to play with fire they will respond. I chuckled, as did he. The more I thought about it, the more I thought he was right. After all who doesn't like to play with fire?
Maybe in worship should be, in some manner, at a primal level, playing with fire, water, bread, & wine. I recall from freshman psychology class, which ain't much, I was so damn immature, the professor once saying that if we could travel back in time thousands of years ago (and by thousands I mean more than six thousand, in case you were wondering) to the time of "the caveman" we could communicate with this creature on an emotional level, a primal level. So what if worship, in other manners, dealt with the matters of primal emotional needs: forgiveness, anger, laughter, crying, community, the need to touch and be touched, to bless and be blessed, to love and be loved? And still be intellectually stimulating!
I don't think every Sunday all of these elements should be present in every worship service but maybe over the course of a month these would be highlighted in some form or fashion. But balancing the primal needs of human beings through the lens of Christianity, that is the never-ending quest. How to make Christianity more earthy? Or how does Christianity help us to be more human on this earth? In tune with the seasons, our own primal needs and the primal needs of our neighbor. Maybe these are the real question bouncing around in my mind.
Someone put a pot of coffee on and get down my Matthew Fox books!