Monday, August 30, 2010

The Liturgical Wretchedness of the Cross

Gordon Lathrop
(I am sorry for the length of this post)     

I am still thinking and tracking with Gordon Lathrop (go here).

In his book, Holy Things, he writes this:

"Jesus Christ is the ground and the content of our praise, yet this praise is broken. The grounds of our thanksgiving are found in a crucified man. For Christians, all the suffering with which we are surrounded and in which we participate has been gathered into Christ. He is among the wretched of the earth, the God-forsaken ones. Jesus Christ is the ground and the content or our beseeching."

 We have here the honest assessment that, even in worship and our part of the liturgy, things are off center. In the midst of praise there is grief and the brutality of the human condition. This sour note cannot be stressed enough. We must offer the people the truth of the Gospel which includes the truth that all is not well and will never be until the Kingdom bells ring in a community. Said another way, a community must become a community, caring for sick and the dying, the widow and the orphan, the locked out and the left out, which first begins by acknowledging that they are in front of us, and most importantly that we are part of them! Let me attempt to show what I mean by two illustrations:

PETER ROLLINS -- We are Part of the World & It's Suffering

Peter Rollins
The first comes from Peter Rollins' book, The Orthodox Heretic, which is a
 series of parables told to illustrate the author's understanding of theological discourse. (spoiler alert) In "Jesus And The Five-Thousand," Jesus gathers the food from the 5,000 but instead of feeding the multitudes he feeds himself and his disciples. They eat the feast leaving nothing for the crowds. The point Rollins makes in the explanation is that, as the body of Christ, we are now nothing less than the continuing manifestation of Christ in the world. He suggests that this may actually be how we are presenting Christ to the world.

JURGEN MOLTMANN -- Suffering is in the World & In Us - Let's Tell The Truth
Jurgen Moltmann
As a prisoner of war Jurgen Moltmann was deeply defeated and distraught over his country's war atrocities. Someone gave him copy of the New Testament and the Psalms where he discovered the the Psalms of Lament. He said in particular, Psalm 39 (see below) spoke to him and for him.

The point in all this is that we must emphasize in our liturgy and worship the brokenness of the cross (theologia crucis) and not just the glory of the resurrection.  We must not rush through the suffering and the cry of dereliction so that we can get to the church triumphant. To do so is to cheapen the suffering of the world and make meaningless the suffering of the cross.

for more of my thoughts in this direction go to these older posts: the chaos around the corner     the human condition     Lyvia Roach, RIP

1 I said, "I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will keep a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." 2 I was silent and still; I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse, 3 my heart became hot within me. While I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4 "Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. 5 You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. (Selah) 6 Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather. 7 "And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool. 9 I am silent; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. 10 Remove your stroke from me; I am worn down by the blows of your hand. 11 "You chastise mortals in punishment for sin, consuming like a moth what is dear to them; surely everyone is a mere breath. (Selah) 12 "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears. 13 Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more."