a time to go deeper and a time for rest...

There is an experiment I am going to try during Sunday worship for the next six weeks:  two spoken reflections separated by silence and song instead of one spoken sermon after a host of Bible lessons. Last week, for Pentecost, I divided the four lectionary readings into discrete "word and commentary" segments. After one spoken reflection I invited folk to practice walking meditation as they moved through the Sanctuary to light a candle on behalf of the wounds of our world. After another, I  spoke about the promise of Pentecost before the reading, and then while the Scripture was shared our children and adults tossed crepe paper "tongues of fire" over the edge of the balcony so that they hovered over the heads of the congregation.  And after St. John's reminder of the coming "Comforter, the Holy Spirit," I encouraged the community to get up and go speak to someone they did not know so that our words might became an embodied act of comfort.

Now the reason for this experiment involves two, interwoven ideas about the tension between church and culture

+ First, our fast paced culture trains us for a diminished attention span. We want and need only the news we can use in byte size portions. So while I will not become a slave to consumer culture, I am curious about what might take place if we tried something like this: a) We read a short text from the Hebrew Bible aloud; b) I offer a concise but serious reflection on why it is important in our tradition and contemporary culture; c) .We pause in community for a short, silent reflection; and d) then close our prayer with a shared song. Two additional readings - and a Psalm - will follow to be concluded with another short critical refection in conversation. The total time for engaging Scripture won't change, but the way we focus will.  And while I might be totally whacked, I sense that putting the Hebrew Bible into context is vital for this moment in time: if we are going to reclaim a shared vision for compassion and justice, then our people who are wildly unaware of ancient Israel's prophetic wisdom need some remedial tutoring.

+ Second, I want to help our folk reclaim the wonder, power and awe of the Bible. Too  many people say, "Can you explain that reading to me more thoroughly so I can grasp its context?" Or even, "I don't really get why we read so much Bible during worship when I don't know the bigger picture." There are times when I even see people's eyes roll back in their heads as we move from the Palm into the Epistle - and by the time the Gospel comes around they are goners. Eugene Peterson found much the same thing back in his church in Maryland and started to rework the texts into the gracious, bold and demanding language we have come to know as The Message. Could it be that using his reworked text mixed with a time of silence, music and quiet prayer might unlock our peoples' passion for the LIving Word of the Lord?  I don't want to dumb things down any more than our culture already does, but  my experience at midday Eucharist suggests that many who gather really are hungry to genuinely hear the word of God in Scripture and have it interpreted, too. 

Maybe playing with the liturgy in this way will be a total flop. But I won't know until we try. I have already discovered that more contemplative prayer with candle lighting makes a difference for some folks. Same is true with walking meditation to different prayer stations in our massive Sanctuary. So, we'll see with this new experiment. We'll give it a try as we move into Ordinary Time and evaluate things after phase one of my summer vacation.  Obviously the composer of the anthem we'll be doing this Sunday, Craig Curry, wasn't afraid to experiment by taking both the singers and congregation to a deeper and more challenging place... I'll keep you posted.


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