Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thinking About Liturgy

As many of my friends already know (especially if we're already linked via my Facebook account!), my wife has just started a 12-day pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This will be the longest time we've spent apart since getting married (almost 5 years ago now). So, perhaps it's natural that I'm thinking about stuff that would be important to her.

That last paragraph will need a bit of explanation for those who don't already know Michelle. Although I grew up in, and still consider myself a part of, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Michelle is pursuing ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Not only that, but she's working on a PhD in Worship and Culture, specifically looking to combine her professional training on the flute with her love of liturgy.

Naturally, since the Presbyterian and Episcopal traditions are somewhat different, Michelle and I talk about matters related to tradition and liturgy quite a bit. So when I read this blog entry by Scot McKnight, I immediately thought about Michelle. Indeed, I've already sent her an e-mail (which even if she reads, she won't be able to do anything about until she gets back from the Middle East) telling her that the book referenced in that blog post is one she needs to add to her collection (if not, in fact, to her academic studies!).

The comments section of this particular entry is also interesting. Long-time readers will already be aware that I strongly believe that many of us are not aware of the extent to which the tradition we adopt affects how we interpret Scripture. It's not as simple a matter of choosing whether to give "tradition" or "Scripture" priority. Rather we must learn to be conscious of the way in which our interpretation of Scripture is influenced by our tradition. It often takes someone from a perspective different than our own to challenge our own misconceptions about what Scripture means. That's not to say that all perspectives are equally valid. Far from it, in fact. But it's certainly a reason to treat opposing viewpoints with respect before we determine that our own understanding is superior to theirs (which we may ultimately determine is still the case).

But in any event, I'm reminded of a phrase that has come up again and again in Michelle's studies: lex orandi, lex credendi. Literally, that might be translated as "the law of prayer is the law of belief." Among other things, this suggests that the way one worships influences what one comes to believe. Of course, this can work the other way around, too (lex credendi, lex orandi?). One choses to worship in a way compatible with what one already believes. It's not as simple choosing one of these two interpretations or the other. The point is that worship (or liturgy) and belief are interconnected. We ignore this interconnectedness at our peril.

EDIT: McKnight addresses some related concepts in this other entry from today.

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