the 221st General Assembly

Posts tagged ‘honesty’

Talking Heads, Sermons, and Disheartenment


Talking Heads, Sermons, and Disheartenment.

In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra is described as being “positively irritable on the Lord’s Day”. It is a trait I share with Aunt Alexandra. In the book, Scout traced this feature to the effects of Aunt Alexandra’s formidable “Sunday corset”. My irritability, on the other hand, usually stems from the “service of Christian worship”.
When I was younger, I imagine I had different reasons for being uncomfortable with church. Some of these were probably legitimate – things that bothered me; things that, truth be told, probably still bother me. Others were more a case of me being a whiner – it’s too long … it’s boring ….
Today, I’m more irritable on Sundays than on any other day of the week because I’m disheartened. Now, I have little problem with the inane things we sing that pass for hymns. I do find myself stopping to think of the words, often being puzzled, often disagreeing with the messages cloaked beneath their thin religious veneer, often dropping out of the singing. I have little problem with the forms of worship – again minor quibbles. I generally enjoy the special music. I can’t fault scripture. I’m not keen on pre-printed group prayers – usually I don’t find much beyond the Lord’s Prayer to be needed; and the confession often makes me laugh. Group prayers of confession rarely reflect my sense of my own sins. [That is a topic for another day … or year.] These ‘prayers of confession” more often reflect what their writers think we should feel bad about, or the values they think we should adopt. I’m not opposed to an offering, though I’ve often thought that we could go without the offering and not really miss it.
I admit, I’m inclined to laugh at the pretension that what we do in our twenty-first century church meetings is derived directly from scripture or the practices of the early church. Some things are mentioned in the New Testament, and others are attested by early church writings – but much of what we do week to week is made of whole cloth. I’m not imagining that that somehow makes our practices illegitimate. It doesn’t. They just don’t live up to their pretensions.

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