One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.
Came across these words recently on the God’s Politics blog and they have stuck by me for much of the last week.
An initial response to the logic is to laugh. How absurd! Until I remembered something a friend said, that ‘one needs to be pious to persecute’. And until I saw what the pious were doing in the life of another friend.
How quickly affections turn.
How easily we cloak our insecurities and wounding hurts in lurid piety.
But then I remember, piety crucified Jesus. I wonder if Hauerwas’s comment is the answer to the tendency of Christians to wound their own. Sing a sappy song, mumble a pointless prayer and the liturgy shapes us alright, but not in an ethical direction. And after we injure we can convince ourselves that what we did was God-honouring.
In a couple of weeks Derek and I are partnering in a seminar at the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland’s annual conference. Our focus is on how we are shaped by liturgy, how the sermon, the music, and liturgical high moments like communion and baptism are shaping and formative for the community.