By. Rev. Brian Hiortdahl
I’m excited to be meeting this week with the talented Mark Weiser to talk about worship and
music planning, but I’m also a little nervous. I’m not sure what he’ll think of the new pastor’s sensibilities. I had selected four hymns for this week:
+ Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey (I heard believing is important for Christians)
+ September by Earth, Wind and Fire (Oh, it’s January)
+ Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars (Billboard’s number one song for
wedding reception, plus I picture Jesus winking at the wine steward and saying,
“Don’t believe me? Just watch. Uh.”)
+ and of course, Celebration by Kool and the Gang, because that’s what worship is.
It’s a celebration.
I could maybe be talked into Can’t Stop the Feeling or Shake It Off, but I draw the line at The Chicken Dance – that’s just not fair ... it’s fowl. The point is that Christian worship is really a wedding party, “the marriage feast of the Lamb” we sometimes call it, a reveling in the deep joy of true love present now and secured for the future in sturdy, sacred promises.
It is no accident that John chooses the wedding at Cana as the setting for the first of Jesus’ signs, because Jesus is a wedding. He is the marriage of heaven and earth; he is the union of God and humanity. To all who trust in his name, John sang at Christmas, he gives power to become children of God: he brings us into a new family and a new identity. So worship is a wedding reception, a celebration with meal and music and reunions and hugs and memories and toasts and blessings and prayers dripping with hope for a happy future.
At least, in theory.
Even God has to deal with gossiping guests, obnoxious relatives and other party poopers.
It’s the price you pay for welcoming everyone—that, and running out of wine.
Walter Brueggemann names the issue at the bottom of both these problems in his watershed essay, The liturgy of abundance, the myth of scarcity.
The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance, he writes.
Genesis I is a song of praise for God's generosity. In an orgy of fruitfulness, everything in its kind is to multiply the overflowing goodness that pours from God's creator spirit. And as you know, the creation ends in Sabbath. God is so overrun with fruitfulness that God says, "I've got to take a break from all this. I've got to get out of the office."
Several psalms pick up the refrain, exploding with praise for the reliable generosity of God.
But in Genesis 47, something switches:
Pharaoh dreams that there will be a famine in the land.
So Pharaoh gets organized to administer, control and monopolize the food supply. Pharaoh introduces the principle of scarcity into the world economy. For the first time in the Bible, someone says, "There's not enough. Let's get everything."
Since then, Scripture has recorded and history has relived version after version of the same story: in Brueggemann’s words, the contest between the liturgy of generosity and the myth of scarcity--a contest that still tears us apart today.
Will there be enough for everyone?
It’s the question at the heart of so many headlines: the refugee debates, the school strike,
the decline in church attendance, water shortages in California (before God fixed that this
week), Brexit and austerity and the furious production cycles that fuel global warming.
The fear that there won’t be enough drives and divides us.
Brueggemann continues: We who are now the richest nation ... never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us.
Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity--a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. The gospel story of abundance asserts that we originated in the magnificent, inexplicable love of a God who loved the world into generous being. The baptismal service declares that each of us has been miraculously loved into existence by God.