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Wherein the Liturgy Wonk Gripes About Church Signs

January 9, 2009

I’m a self-avowed, practicing Liturgy wonk. I love the liturgical calendar. I tend to preach from the Revised Common Lectionary. I like responsive readings, and hymns that match the theme of the service. I like white paraments for communion, and proper-colored paraments for the rest of the church year.

Every day that I drive past a certain local church, I see a sign that reads “Jesus Died for ‘MySpace’ in Heaven.”

That’s right, it was up all through Advent, Christmas and now Epiphany. Folks, that grinds my gears. At the very time we’re supposed to be celebrating Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus’ birth, and his baptism in ministry there’s a church proclaiming his death. I’ve never held a baby, looked him or her in the eye and said, “you’re gonna die someday.” I’m busy celebrating that baby’s birth and life. Our churches should be celebrating Jesus’ birth and life right now.

Seriously. First of all I get sick of that “Jesus died” talk year in, year out. Yes, the death of Jesus is important – even vital to our faith. But talking endlessly about Jesus’ death is detrimental to our faith. It desensitizes us. It loses its shock value.

Jesus’ death is only important if Jesus’ life is important too. And let’s not forget resurrection. That’s important too.

My friend and New Testament prof Steve Patterson always critiqued the Apostles’ Creed by stating that it reduces the life of Jesus to a comma. It’s true. Conceived, born, suffered, died, rose, ascended. Nothing about teaching, preaching, healing, loving, proclaiming. Just a comma.

If dying is all Jesus came for, then why didn’t he just die as a child? Something important must have happened during that comma.

Okay, Jesus did die for ‘MySpace’ in heaven. But he also lived, taught, preached, healed, loved, rose and ascended for it as well.

Put that on your church sign. I dare you.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. adhunt permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:04 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. But what’s a “wonk?” lol

  2. January 9, 2009 3:43 pm

    A wonk is like a nerd or a geek.

  3. Steve Manskar permalink
    January 9, 2009 4:39 pm

    Thanks Will. Your comment about your teacher’s reflection on the Apostles’ Creed reducing Jesus’ life to a comma made me recall one of my favorite Marva Dawn comments. She suggests that a comma should be moved. The comma after “Pilate” should go after the word “suffered.” If we do this the creed reads:

    Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    [he] suffered, under Pontius Pilate
    was crucified, dead, and buried;

    This revision gives more sense of the importance of Jesus’ life.

  4. January 10, 2009 1:50 am

    Amen, Will. Amen!

  5. January 10, 2009 10:35 pm

    Maybe Jesus’ life and death is not so much a matter of where commas are placed in creeds . . . but rather an exclamation point to remind us how much God cares and loves us.

    In 20+ years of ministry, I’ve had several occasions where individuals have told me how uncomfortable the thought is of Jesus dying for them. “Dying for their sins” was not the issue, but rather, these individuals knew of nothing else in their lives with which to compare such a sacrificial act or gesture made on their behalf.

    I wonder how many “Christians” and how many “pastors/clergy” are affected in the same way by the thought of Christ’s dying for them. How do we compare, and balance the importance of the cross, with the witness of Jesus’ life in-and-of-itself?

    Such is the fine line (balance) we have to walk and live theologically.

    To focus only on his teachings an actions, is to minimalize his purpose, but to do so without a careful consideration of his death for us . .. as a sacrificial atonement for all . . . is perhaps to diminish all that his life leads up to.

    To focus only on his death . . . causes one to miss out on all which the NT records that he said, which I suppose were spoken and subsequently written and shared “for a reason.”

  6. Marty permalink
    January 11, 2009 1:05 pm

    Here, here!

    Several years ago my daughter and I (United Methodists) and my close friend and her two children (Roman Catholic) visited a huge Christmas music presentation by a Southern Baptist church in our town. There was as much time spent on Holy Week than on the birth narrative. And almost half of that was the 39 lashes!

    Try explaining that to three kids under 10 who had grown up in liturgical churches. “Merry Christmas, kids. Let’s go see Jesus getting beaten.”

  7. January 13, 2009 9:45 pm

    *Wild Applause*

    This post was so good. I couldn’t say it the way you did but I have always preferred not to see the cross in Christmas decorations. Now I understand my feelings a little better.

    Excellent post!

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