Here are my thoughts from week 2 of a Wednesday night group where we meet and discuss the worship service in order to have accountability to actually spend time meditating on it rather than just enjoying the service and forgetting about it when we leave the building.
“Welcome to the Gospel Story”
Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”
Although it was not intentionally the theme of the service, technology kind of became the theme for what I was thinking about in worship. When we walked in, Lynn told me we were without sound for the morning, because one of the amps had apparently gone out. Luckily some parts of the sound system were apparently working, so the main mic worked and any sound running out of the computer worked through the speakers, but the mics for the musicians weren't working. (Makes me miss the simplicity of unprogrammed worship, for sure!)
As one of the pastors put it, this was supposed to be a technology-heavy service, so of course the sound went out! But really it worked out, because everything that we really need amplification for worked, and the musicians sounded great without mics. We could hear the congregation better and we could still hear the lead voices and instruments.
It was “Yearly Meeting Sunday,” which we have, I don't know, a couple times a year? We focus on our connection with Northwest Yearly Meeting in various ways. This time we watched a short video of Quaker students from George Fox University sharing why they're Quakers and why they chose to go to Fox (you can watch it on YouTube here). We also talked via Skype to a couple from NWYM who are “Friends Serving Abroad” in Russia. It was cool to be able to have them “visit” and share with us what they're doing, how their ministry is going and how we can be praying for them.
Another thing technologically related was that I forgot to bring my journal, so since I've committed to doing this Wednesday night group and part of that is taking notes during worship, I decided I'd just use my iPod Touch to take notes. My father-in-law glared at me at first, but I explained what I was doing and he rolled his eyes and said, “Well, OK...”
It felt a little strange to be taking notes on my iPod because it is so technological (I mean, not as technological as an iPhone, of course, but the same idea). It felt a little out of place in worship. And yet, everything for taking notes was at one point a new technology, right? Bringing a journal and a pen to worship was probably also looked down upon as unnecessary in simple Quaker meetings at some point, right? Whether that makes it any better or not is another question, perhaps. I didn't really like it because it takes a long time to type stuff—much longer than writing. But it was better than nothing.
Stan started off his sermon with jokes about technology, mostly emphasizing how silly we all are when we complain about some amazing technology not working, but when it's working fine we forget to be amazed at the fact that we can do something like talk in real time with people in Russia.
He continued his sermon, bringing up the question, “Why would the gospel be something one would be ashamed of?” I thought this was a really important question. He suggested that for early Christ-followers, it would be a bit embarrassing to be proclaiming and following one who was executed as a criminal. I think today we're more likely to be ashamed because of the old fashioned nature of the way many explain our faith, or because of how many who profess Christianity act in the name of Christ, although we don't think what they're doing has any bearing on what Jesus actually said and did.
He quoted Stanley Hauerwas who was quoting someone else, saying essentially that Christianity will be accessible to each culture and generation as it takes the form of an invitation into the ongoing gospel story. The gospel story is bigger than simply the life of Jesus in the flesh; we continue the gospel story as we live out our faith. We're representatives of Christ—we ARE the gospel in our culture. We're not just telling “the old, old story,” although that's part of it. We're participating in that story and inviting others into it.
Stan also mentioned something else that I really appreciated. He said theology isn't the originating principle in our lives, but it's out of our listening and the ways we're called that we form our theology. I think this gets at the heart of some of the theology that was done in seminary, or that we read. In my opinion, we can't just create a nice systematic theology and call it good just because it all fits together and makes logical sense. We create a theology based on our experience of God speaking into our lives. Part of this is through the Bible and through knowing stories of faithful people across time, but part of it is unique to our own context: where and when we're born, our personal family history and genetic make-up. God speaks into this specifically and we get to be an unique piece of the story that is the gospel story, the story of the way Christ is at work in the world.