Evangelicals Don’t Get It, Part 1

As those who have read my past ramblings know, corporate worship is a very important subject to me…primarily because of the horrendous chicanery that passes as ‘worship’ in many Evangelical circles. I can confidently say for a multitude of reasons, when it comes to corporate worship, Evangelicals just don’t ‘get it.’ Before I get too far on my rant, let me emphatically place the blame only partially on our parishioners and primarily on those like me in ministry and/or leadership positions…in our desire for relevance, seeker friendliness, or (less nobly) packed ‘auditoriums,’ we have largely abandoned 2000 years of a highly-developed Christian theology of worship and substituted a whitewash of pathetic, ‘purpose-driven’ drivel. As a result, most Evangelical Christians clearly have no idea what happens when we assemble together for ‘worship.’

How do I know? For one, look how we commonly dress for worship.

Now, before you totally object and start spamming me with a bunch of livid comments, hear me out a bit. My contention here is that how we dress for worship says volumes about what we think is actually happening during worship. Now I realize that contemporary American society is pretty casual when it comes to dress. With the exception of bankers, job hunters, certain areas of corporate society, and the military, we love our ‘business casual,’ ‘casual Fridays,’ and laid-back Gen X dress codes that copycat Google or some other left coast company…and I’m totally fine with that. I love that I don’t have to wear a tie at NASA like everybody did back in the 60s. Believe me!

Even in the midst of our largely casual corporate society, however, there are still times to dress up. Anybody ever interview for a new job in a ragged hoodie and flip-flops? Doubtful. Ever go to a meeting with your boss or boss’s boss in jeans and an untucked Hollister t-shirt? Yeah, right. As laid-back as we are today, no one would even begin to suggest that either of these scenarios is proper or acceptable, but just last week at church I saw folks dressed exactly like this. (Oh, by the way, I’m not just picking on ‘youth,’ I’m totally convinced that this whole business is learned behavior. I look at how many of the parents dress and can’t blame their kids…but I digress.)

Anyway, if it is not okay to dress über casual when I go see my boss, how in the world can we as Evangelicals think nothing of it when gathering together to meet corporately with the very God of the universe? “God don’t care what you wear, God just cares that you’re there,” one of the older folks in a previous church used to say to razz me for wearing a tie on Sunday mornings. Well…maybe…but I’m inclined to think that the God we worship today is the same God who commanded Moses to take off his shoes in his presence, who brought Isaiah to his knees in recognition of his own sinfulness, and in front of whom even John describes the seraphim as shielding their faces because of his holiness. Actually, I have no reason to think otherwise, even for a second, that our great God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–whom we worship each Sunday is any other than the one to whom we owe “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12.28b-29, ESV). To be blunt, this God is one and the same, even today.

Do we really believe that corporate worship is the divine meeting of God and man? If so, why do we treat it so casually in many more ways than merely our dress? Do we truly believe that corporate worship is our response to an invitation by the King of the Universe to appear with the heavenly host and our brothers and sisters in Christ before his throne? If so, why do we take it more lightly than we do when we have audience with our supervisors at work? Does putting on our ‘Sunday best’ necessarily provide a litmus test that we are worshiping in ‘Spirit and truth’? Of course not, but showing up dressed for the beach certainly suggests that we’re more concerned with our juvenile American society than we are with showing respect and reverence to our Lord.

Believe me, I love flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts, but when it comes to worship, I’m responding to a very special invitation to meet with God…I’ve got audience with the King! And in this time that is unique among all the hours of the week, I shall choose to show him just how thankful I am for this time by attention to the littlest things like the clothes I wear.

“Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face”

Go, Atlantis, go!Atlantis liftoff

At 7:38 pm (EDT) today the shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. Just a moment ago, at 9:23 pm (EDT), the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Atlantis a ‘Go for orbital ops,’ meaning that all essential tasks to turn the shuttle from a rocket ship to a space ship had been successfully completed. After months of delays due to hail damage on the external tank, the ascent was picture perfect!

The launch today is the perfect backdrop for this interesting hymn I found a few days ago in the Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). I have doubt any of us has ever heard this hymn or read the lyrics, but I find it is especially appropriate this evening as we continue to ask God’s blessing and care over our shuttle and station crews in the days ahead. (BTW, while the words are new to us, the tune for this hymn is familiar and is that for “The Navy Hymn” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found here.)

Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face

Bless Thou the astronauts who face
The vast immensities of space;
And may they know, in air, on land,
Thou holdest them within in thy hand.
O may the small step each doth take
Aid others giant leaps to make.

How excellent in all the earth
Thy name, O God, who gave it birth;
When first upon the moon man trod,
How excellent thy name, O God.
The heavens thy glory doth declare;
Where-e’re we are, Lo! thou are there.

We still upon thy laws depend
As our dominions thus extend,
While from the nations triumph rings
When we mount up with eagles’ wings.
Grant on each planet, far and near,
To all thy glory may appear.

Give all men, for all time to be,
The blessing of tranquility,
As galaxies and quasars share
The knowledge that our God is there!
May future aeons call to mind,
“We came in peace for all mankind.”

“Deployment” time!!!

All right folks, time to for BCC 07B to grab our rucks and ‘deploy’ from Maxwell AFB, AL, to Tyndall AFB, FL. For the next five days, our chaplains and chaplain assistants will be heading to Silver Flag, an Air Force civil engineering training function to train on deployment planning and execution. For the most part, things will run exactly like a real deployment, except that we’re heading out by Greyhound at 0530 on Sunday instead of by plane.Deployment...

Once we hit the ground, we’ll be setting up our living/chapel tents, creating ministry plans, and heading out among the troops to minister to them…just as we would in a real-world deployment.

While the experience will be totally new to many of the folks here, some of us are accustomed to Air Force camping deployments, so we’re looking forward to long days, hard work, and a great time! That said, I’m leaving my trusty computer in AL, so there won’t be anything to read here until next Friday when I’ll make an update on the week’s activities.

Have a great week!

Why we fight…

For the past few weekends, I’ve been posting some humor for the purpose of a-musement…but this week, I’m going to broach a much more thoughtful subject, the Global War on Terror. From time to time people will ask me, “For what are we fighting?” Usually, we expect a standard answer from among the litany: oil, democracy, freedom, revenge, etc. I would like, however, to rephrase the question because I think it is normally asked incorrectly. The question should not be, “For what are we fighting?” but “For whom are we fighting?”

I made this video to answer the latter question, and I think it does so beautifully. The words of the music also fit perfectly–Kyrie eleison…Lord have mercy.

Disclaimer: Making this movie consisted primarily of organizing photos from another presentation and setting it to music. The real work was done by our troops who took these pictures wherever they happened to be.