Skip to comments.Worship: Party or Funeral? Let's do Funeral
Posted on 08/10/2012 5:50:29 PM PDT by hiho hiho
"It's Sunday morning," I happily announce to my wife, "What will it be today? You want to go to a funeral or to a party?"
"What do you think?"
"Right. Funeral it is then."
Not a real surprise to admit that's not the conversation Linda and I had last Sunday. But, even if it was, who'd want to go with us? Who'd rather go to a funeral instead of a party? We live in a party culture. The more parties, the better. And, as far as funerals go, the last time I checked they weren't really setting new attendance records.
Parties are all about having a good time. We gauge whether or not it was a good party based on whether we enjoyed it (or, if we were throwing the party, based on how everyone who came seemed to enjoy it). In fact, the reason we go to parties is to have a good time. Parties are for people who want to be happy.
That's one reason we don't care much for depressed people showing up at parties - unless they're good actors. Happy people getting with other happy people to get even happier. At many parties today these happy times are even happier when Jack Daniels and Mary Jane show up.
What's as bad as depressed people is people showing up who are just too serious. They can pretty much ruin a good party. Nobody wants to go over the latest Federal Reserve Bank predictions.
"Okay, people. Listen up. Let's talk about how the collapse of the Euro is going to bring about disastrous worldwide economic depression. Now, give me a show of hands: how many of you have considered putting at least 25% of your portfolio into gold?"
"Man. Are we having a good time or what!?"
The correct answer would be "what."
No depressed people. No morbidly serious conversations. Don't mention cancer or death and, for goodness sake, don't talk about religion. Church jokes are okay. But steer away from atonement or death and the questions surrounding eternal judgment. That would be like pulling the emergency stop lever. You'll hear the place go from a cacophony of chatter and chuckles to the chirping of a single cricket in an instant. Keep the tears and sobs and philosophical musings for when you're back home, if you don't mind. Parties are where people go to have a good time. No laugh-ee. No party. Got it?
Funerals. Now there's a different animal. I go to parties to have a good time. I go to funerals because I belong to a family or have close friends I care about. Parties are about fitting in. Funerals demonstrate we already belong. Parties are about wanting to be happy. Funerals are about wanting to show love.
Then there's the matter of conversations. At parties, telling jokes, teasing, and amusing facts will make you the center of attention. Want to be a winner at your next party? Get a good book of jokes. At funerals, telling family stories, both funny and serious, will draw people around you. Want to make an impact at a funeral? Bring family pictures.
Funerals are not all sad. You already know that. You've heard laughter at funerals. Or, at least, at many funeral dinners. You get people in the same room who belong together, who've shared life and loss together, and you'll likely hear explosions of laughter mixed with the softer sounds of weeping . And, it's also okay to weep. Tears. Chuckles. Smiles. Sadness. They're all there and all mixed together and all of them are okay. At funerals, that is, not parties.
At funerals people who normally seem shallow come off sounding reflective and deep. Talking about how the Kansas City Royals are doing this season, although it does have similarities to a funeral, isn't what you hear. Sports is replaced by talk about family and memories and even talk about God and faith. If the gauge is shallow and amusing conversation, then parties are going to win every time. If the gauge is changed to important and meaningful things being said, then funerals are going to come out on top.
You don't have to be Einstein to realize what the writer of Ecclesiastes said centuries before Christ is as true today as it was then, "You're better off going to a funeral than to a feast." (Eccl. 7:2)
It's true that in worshiping God, we are joyously recalling the incredible riches of His grace that has been lavished on us in Christ Jesus. It's true that the gospel story does not end on a blood stained cross, but in an empty tomb. It's true that angels rejoice when a single sinner comes home. It's true that Christianity is a religion of singing, not angry dogma. But, our decision to design and construct times of worship as a kind of weekly party is starting to show some serious strain. It's like trying to keep a balloon filled that keeps getting a larger and larger hole in it somewhere. We keep pumping it up faster and faster just trying to keep it from deflating.
It's an odd kind of wisdom that looks at results over a couple of decades and confidently concludes that what the church has done for nineteen centuries can be abandoned and worship can be radically improved. Want to make a modern American want to get close to Jesus? Show a laughing and grinning Jesus bouncing happy kids on the knees. Want to get people from other eras to feel drawn to Him, picture Him as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
I suppose a good reason we won't plan regular times of reflection over personal sin or spend quiet slow minutes in the breaking of bread is it drags the party down. Think about what you hope happens in a good party:
People happily entering, chatting away with small talk and friendly greetings.
Upbeat music that may get even more upbeat as the evening goes along.
And, if it's going to be a really great party, why not end it up with a stand up comic who can entertain, inform, and inspire.
Oh, and snacks. Don't forget to have a little snack available for those who want it.
Sound vaguely familiar? Like, maybe last Sunday morning? The structure of worship slowly tested and forged over many centuries that continues to form its weekly framework in the worship of 8 out of 10 people on earth who call themselves Christians goes something like this:
Entrance singing and praying
Confession of sins and accepting mercy and forgiveness.
Hearing God speak in the Old Testament
Hearing God speak in the epistles of the New Testament
Hearing God speak through the Lord Jesus out of the Gospels
Listening as the pastor encourages and exhorts.
Affirming our faith
Breaking bread and sharing cup
And now we have worshipped: Thanks be unto God.
This blog post is certainly not the first time you've read or heard someone suggest that our worship practices need some serious attention. Even Neil Postman's insightful analysis of our culture, Amusing Ourselves to Death, should have been a wake up call for the church. But few of us are willing to risk the short-term disaster of trying to take large groups of people addicted to the shallow rush of religious highs and trying to deepen them toward the richer things of worship. Most ministers know enough to be concerned. But, the risk is just too great. We just keep dancing as fast as we can, hoping we somehow manage to keep it all going until the band quits playing.
Seeker-centered worship. Religion isn’t supposed to be a marketing exercise. It’s supposed to be instructive, and it’s supposed to be reverent. Churches do their members a disservice when they forget this.
Great post. Very interesting. We belong to a church whose population is aging. In fact, when we moved to town a few years ago, my middle-aged husband and I were the youngest ones in the parish. I think we may be 2nd youngest now. Our church follows the liturgy-everything is purposeful- yet our numbers go down as there are more deaths than new parishoners. It is hard to wait through this. I am resigned to the possibility that it may not change in my lifetime. It is not without evangelization our part. Perhaps we are not very good at it! But I have found that a service with liturgy is difficult to appreciate for most unchurched.
So, to be honest, the marketing exercise is appealing. More so than this walking through the desert stuff...
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART IV. ON HEAVEN. III. On the Joys of Heaven (Continued)
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART IV. ON HEAVEN. II. On the Joys of Heaven
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART IV. ON HEAVEN. I. On the Nature of Heaven
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN PART III. ON HELL. VIII. On Eternity
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART III. ON HELL. VII. The Worm that Dieth Not
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: VI. On the Loss of the Beatific Vision of God
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART III. ON HELL. V. On the Company of Hell
THE FOUR LAST THINGS ---- DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN IV. Some Other Torments of Hell
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART III. ON HELL. III. On the Vile Odors of Hell
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART III. ON HELL. II. On the Hunger and Thirst Suffered in Hell
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART III. ON HELL. I. On the Fire of Hell
THE FOUR LAST THINGS XIII. How the Blessed will go up into Heaven after the Judgment
THE FOUR LAST THINGS XII. How the Damned will ask in Vain for Mercy, and will be cast down into Hell
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: XI. On the Publication of the Sentence Passed upon the Good and the Bad
THE FOUR LAST THINGS X. On the Length of Time that the Final Judgment will Last
THE FOUR LAST THINGS IX. On the Manner in which the Final Judgment will be Commenced
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: VII. Why Christ's Appearance on the Day of Final Judgment will be Terrible
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT VII Christ will take His Place on the Judgment-seat
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT. VI. On the Advent of the Judge
THE FOUR LAST THINGS Pt. II. THE LAST JUDGMENT V. On the Appearance of Christs Cross in the Heavens
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT. IV Continued
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT. III. Continued
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT. II. On the Resurrection of the Dead
THE FOUR LAST THINGS - DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART I. ON DEATH. V. On the Judgment
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART I. ON DEATH. IV. On the Fear of Hell.
THE FOUR LAST THINGS PART I. ON DEATH. III. On the Apparition of the Spirits of Darkness
THE FOUR LAST THINGS: PART I. ON DEATH. II. On the Assaults of Satan at the Hour of Death
THE FOUR LAST THINGS DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN - FATHER MARTIN VON COCHEM, O.S.F.C.
All Saints, All Souls and the Four Last Things
It is unfortunate that, to my knowledge, America does not have any ossuary chapels, which is truly sad. An ossuary is decorated with the bones of the deceased, who often bequeath their bones for that purpose.
It is unlike any holy site you might visit, as a sense of mortality, reverence, and deep spirituality come to the fore. In normal churches, it is easy for most in attendance to be distracted by the petty concerns of life. But in an ossuary, prayer and purpose are in clear focus.
In no way is it a celebration of death, but it feels as a spiritual audience for the living. Even the clergy who perform services in an ossuary are moved by it.
In no way is it a celebration of death, but it feels as a spiritual audience for the living.
You need help.
And I am absolutely positive you're not going to seek it.
You need to dial back your aggression a lot. In this case it seems to be “thread bleed over”, in which you were so angry at me on a different post, you are attacking me on this post. Let it go.